In this selection in our series on the testimony of Mark Vicente, we go further in his disillusionment with Nxivm and, ultimately, with Keith Alan Raniere.
He is being examined by AUSA Mark Lesko.
He begins discussing the very curious circumstances of the death of Pam Cafritz, who died in November but whose death was not announced until much later. By that time, her body was removed and was purportedly put in a cryogenic tomb.
Q Did something happen in the NXIVM community in November of 2016?
A November 2016 was I believe the death of Pam Cafritz.
Q Was the NXIVM community immediately made aware of Pam’s death?
A No, they weren’t. And it was — I remember I had a conversation with a few people. I wasn’t clear why we were keeping her death from the entire community. It took quite some time before people were informed, and I remember I said to Clare Bronfman, it would be really good to let people know given that people would want to fly in from all over the world to attend, you know, some kind of service or a gathering. And she said, Well, you know, he’ll tell us when he’s ready. I was like, Okay, but — and she was very stern with me, in other words, stop. And it was just a mystery to me why –why — why keep this thing a secret when — when everybody in the upper ranks knows — it was a whole sequence of things that happened around her — her death, why keep it a secret? And eventually, it was announced, and then people were scrambling to get there. In fact, people were told you have to call people to come. And I was like, This was with the exact thing I was trying to avoid, this cluster.
Q Come where?
A To Albany to —
Q For what?
A So — for — there was a — there was a two-day event. And it was held in Saratoga Springs, and I think it was the Hall of Springs and it was sort of a commemoration, a celebration of — of her life over two evenings.
Q At around this time in January of 2017, did something happen that involved your wife?
A January 2017 is when my wife officially resigned from the organization.
Q Did you have an understanding as to why she left?
A My understanding was she had had a discussion with Raniere, and she basically expressed to him that she realized that the entire organization was built on coercion, fear, obligation, rules —
Q Did you learn that your wife had had an altercation with any of the high ranging leaders of the NXIVM?
A Sometime before there has been an unpleasant situation with Nancy Salzman and her. Basically, my wife had expressed her concerns about what was happening in The Source Company, and Nancy Salzman had offered to work with her and EM her, so she did. And she said to my wife, You know, well come back tomorrow and we’ll continue. And then my wife came back, and for some strange reason, Nancy — Nancy’s demeanor went from helpful to quite, quite upset and angry and she basically blamed my wife for trying to take control of the company, being power hungry, and a bunch of things that my wife was not. And my wife was — was deeply troubled and didn’t say anything for a number of days. And she was in essence struggling enormously … And I said to her, Did Nancy punish you, and she finally said yes. But she was concerned because she felt like you couldn’t say, I’d been punished, because that — you know, that means you’re not giving tribute to the leader, and now you’ll get blamed because, you know, if you say, You’re being punished, then you know maybe you’re the punisher. There’s a whole series of mental traps.
Q When Bonnie left NXIVM — resigned from NXIVM, did you leave with her?
A I did not.
Q Why not?
A I was still loyal to Raniere. I — I had this thing of like, Well, I’m committed to something. You know, stick it out. And I was speaking to Raniere about a lot of the issues that I was seeing in the company, but I believed at that point that he was the shining light and the problems were all because of other people. Because he would tell me as much. He would tell me, The problem is this. The problem is the woman. The women are this, the women are that. They’re socialists. That’s the problem. So, in essence, in my mind, I held him as blameless for anything that was going on, and my sense of loyalty was still very, very strong.
Bonnie Piesse left Nxivm. She quit. But Mark stayed on because he believed in Raniere, because he was loyal to him. It took him some time to finally leave. But the seeds of doubt were already there.
It was obvious that Mark saw flaws in the company – the cult as we view it now – and tried to address these things with Raniere, with Nancy Salzman and others. But through it all, he believed, as he said, that Raniere was a shining light.
He saw with eyes blinded with an illusion that Raniere was something more than he was. This is the great secret of cults in general. The charismatic leader, in this case, Raniere, appears to the followers as noble when he is, in fact, evil; he appears loving when he hates them; and he appears like he is reflecting light when he is actually casting them into darkness.
Raniere was an evil artist who knew how to play his victims brilliantly. They all thought he meant for them the highest good; none of them achieved anything but sorrow and yet he was able to spin it all on them: That they were at fault; that they had failed.
Bonnie saw through this nonsense before Mark did and now they had a divided household. The wife seeing Raniere and his organization as coercive and fear-based – and Mark still seeing or thinking that Raniere was good but his followers were simply failing.
He was to have yet another awakening when he learned about women being branded. This will be reviewed in our next post – and it was the final straw that got Vicente out of Nxivm.