DOJ Issues Special Award to AUSA Tanya Hajjar and FBI Team for Their Work to Take Down NXIVM and Raniere

The US Department of Justice announced today that men and women who took down Raniere at the DOJ did good work. Attorney General Merrick Garland honored several NXIVM hunters with the Distinguised Service Award
Among those honored are
  1.  AUSA Tanya Hajjar
  2. AUSA Kevin Trowel
  3. Former Acting U.S. Attorney Mark J. Lesko
  4. FBI Special Agents Michael W. Lever,
  5. Maegan O. Rees,
  6. Michael J. Weniger
Conspicuous by her absence in the list of those honored was the lead prosecutor, Moira Kim Penza. She is in private practice now but so is Mark Lesko. He was honored.
I don’t recognize a cause and effect between the investigative efforts of the FR and the awards. I do see it as a sign that the Attorney General stands behind the team who took down Raniere. It may also be a sign that they do not take the tampering allegations in Raniere’s Rule 33 to be serious.
Here is the DOJ press release: 






Honored for The Investigation and Prosecution of Nxivm Leader Keith Raniere and Co-Conspirators Who Victimized Women Through Sex Trafficking and Other Crimes


WASHINGTON – Two Eastern District of New York Assistant United States Attorneys, a former Acting United States Attorney, and one paralegal specialist were among the 298 department employees recognized today by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland at the 69th Annual Attorney General’s Awards Ceremony. Fifty-four non-department individuals were also honored for their work. The annual ceremony recognizes Department of Justice employees and partners for extraordinary contributions to the enforcement of our nation’s laws.


“This year’s awardees have served selflessly to further the Department’s important work upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe, and protecting civil rights,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “I am proud to recognize these individuals for their professionalism, skill, and leadership, and I am grateful for their service to our Department and our nation.”


“The groundbreaking work of our Eastern District honorees and law enforcement partners achieved justice for the women victimized by Nxivm’s leader Keith Raniere and his sophisticated associates who carried out their crimes for years, protected by a wall of secrecy, intimidation, and humiliation that the prosecution team ultimately demolished,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “This case serves as a model for using racketeering, labor and sex trafficking statutes to combat crimes that have caused victims significant harm. Today’s occasion is also an opportunity to once again praise the bravery of the victims in this case who, having put their trust in our extraordinary team, found the strength to testify against Raniere, regain control of their lives, and begin the long process of healing.”


The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service


United States v. Keith Raniere et al.


Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tanya Hajjar and Kevin Trowel, former Acting U.S. Attorney Mark J. Lesko, and Paralegal Specialist Teri Carby of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, together with the investigative team – FBI Supervisory Special Agents Anthony Bivona and Christopher Donohue; FBI Special Agents Delise Jeffrey, Michael W. Lever, Maegan O. Rees, and Michael J. Weniger; FBI Victim Specialist Laura B. Riso; Task Force Officer Charles B. Fontanelli; and Special Agents Megan Buckley and Christopher T. Munster, Homeland Security Investigations – were recognized for their efforts in dismantling a criminal enterprise led by Keith Raniere, whose members engaged in racketeering, sex trafficking, and forced labor, among other crimes.


For over a decade, Raniere and his co-conspirators led a criminal enterprise under the guise of various self-help organizations headquartered in Albany, New York, with centers operating elsewhere in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In late 2015, Raniere created a secret society called DOS, whose members were drawn from the self-help organizations. Women were recruited under the false pretense of joining a women-only mentorship group, later discovering that they had taken “vows of obedience” to women who had themselves pledged obedience to Raniere. Prospective DOS victims were required to provide “collateral” to Raniere and his co-conspirators, which included damaging confessions about themselves and their loved ones, whether true or not, rights to financial assets and sexually explicit photographs and videos. Collateral was used to coerce victims into providing labor and services, including sex acts with Raniere, for the benefit of Raniere and the criminal enterprise.


After securing the convictions of Raniere’s five co-defendants through guilty pleas, the team used a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to successfully prepare multiple victims for trial testimony. The team employed precedent-setting applications of the RICO, sex trafficking, and labor trafficking statutes to pursue justice for the victims and provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to ensure victim participation in all aspects of the prosecution.


Following a six-week trial, Raniere was held accountable for over a decade of crime and exploitation that had been concealed behind the guise of various “personal growth” programs. In June 2019, Raniere was convicted of racketeering conspiracy; racketeering involving predicate acts of sex trafficking, child exploitation, and obstruction of justice; and substantive offenses including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. In October 2020, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison.



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Frank Parlato

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1 year ago

Moira Penza
Re award, as I told
, “Bringing Keith Raniere to justice was a team effort, and I’m delighted to see my colleagues, especially our law enforcement partners, honored for their tireless work dismantling this criminal enterprise.”

Top credit? Survivors who spoke up.

18. July 2022·Twitter for iPhone

1 year ago

Times Union

Justice Department honors NXIVM prosecution team, except for its leader

Robert Gavin, July 13, 2022, Updated: July 13, 2022 5:23 p.m.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has honored 14 members of the government team that took down NXIVM leader Keith Raniere but a major contributor was missing from that list: the lead prosecutor.

[ … ]
[ … ]

The award is only open to current employees at the time of nomination.

Penza – now a partner at the firm of Wilkinson Stekloff in Manhattan – had already left the office when the application form was submitted. Lesko was still a DOJ employee when the nomination was sent in, which explains why he was eligible, according to John Marzulli, an Eastern District of New York spokesperson.

[ … ]

Heidi Hutchinson
Heidi Hutchinson
1 year ago

I am humbly grateful to all of these tremendous public servants, and, especially, also to Ms. Penza and Mr. Donahue.

During the OJ Simpson trial when the prosecution lost it was said that this proves, “You can’t convict a billion dollars.”

The NXIVM investigation and prosecution team proved that wrong. (And nobody tampered or lied or cheated to do it, either.)

Congrats and THANK YOU ALL!

1 year ago

Just wondering Frank if you have any opinion on why Penza was not included, given that she was the the lead and Mark Lesko is also in private practice. It does seem odd.

1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Parlato

It’s Mrs. The woman’s married! 😅

1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Parlato

Thanks Frank. Sounds intriguing…

1 year ago

It is very odd that Penza is not included in the awards. What would be the reason for her absence?

1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Parlato

Penza works for Altria in litigation against the FTC over the Juul brand of e-cigarettes. It would not be proper for the government to give or for Penza to receive any award.

This is not true of Lesko, who is so far without clients who are in direct conflict with the DOJ.

1 year ago

Well deserved. RICO claims are very sophisticated and difficult.

Aristotle’s Sausage
Aristotle’s Sausage
1 year ago

Congratulations and well merited!

It should be remembered that this was truly groundbreaking work, Raniere’s cult was brought down using the sex-trafficking statute, a novel approach at the time. This was an important step in prosecution sexual abuse, a notoriously difficult crime. Sex abusers beware!

The Frank Report has taken the position that the Department of Justice’s “business is taking human freedom away, and the misnomer of ‘justice’ in their name supports their enterprise.” I regard this as a scurrilous slander.

The Department and its employees uphold the law. This is a difficult and sometimes dangerous task. It is public service and not a “business” as the Frank Report would have it.

Hajjar, Trowel, Lesko, Lever and the other awardees are heroes. Raniere is scum and he’s in prison where he belongs. Justice was served. The rule of law was upheld. That, it should be obvious to everyone, is Justice.


“the Attorney General stands behind the team who took down Raniere. It may also be a sign that they do not take the tampering allegations in Raniere’s Rule 33 to be serious.”

Nobody takes it seriously, Frank.

Postscript 2:

“In June 2019, Raniere was convicted of racketeering conspiracy; racketeering involving predicate acts of sex trafficking, child exploitation, and obstruction of justice; and substantive offenses including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy.”

Note well that Raniere’s racketeering conviction was based on several predicate acts, and the child pornography act is not so much as mentioned. There was in fact a surfeit of predicate acts proven at trial. THE PROSECUTION DID NOT DEPEND ON THE SUPPOSEDLY “FAKED” EVIDENCE. This shows how absurd the Chakravorty/Frank allegations are. The idea that the FBI needed to fake evidence to secure Raniere’s conviction is, to put it bluntly, a lie.

1 year ago

Makes me wonder, doesn’t he get sick of staring at the same blank painted brick walls, day after day after day?

Or, are these evidence tampering screams ‘n shrieks the result of staring at those walls non stop… on and on… and on… ? 😏

I can’t imagine very well what that would be like… 🤔🙄

Deserved Recognition
Deserved Recognition
1 year ago

They did do an excellent job!

This was a sprawling case that spanned decades. It involves high-concept crimes.

The fact that the dead-enders are grasping at such desperate straws to try to find a hole in the conviction is just utter proof of what a fantastic, exemplary job the prosecution performed.

Well done!

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083


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