Was Saratoga County DA Karen Heggen negligent in not stopping Keith Raniere?
Raniere lived in Saratoga County for around 30 years before he left for Mexico in November 2017.
Many of NXIVM’s leaders lived in Saratoga County.
All five of Raniere’s codefendants lived in Saratoga County.
Allison Mack, Clare Bronfman, Kathy Russell, and mother and daughter Nancy and Lauren Salzman.
All eight of Raniere’s first line DOS slaves lived in Saratoga County.
Of the 25 members of Raniere’s so-called inner circle, 22 lived in Saratoga County.
Karen Heggen has been Saratoga County DA since 2014.
In June 2019, a federal jury in Brooklyn’s Eastern District of New York convicted Raniere of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and racketeering charges that included underlying acts of possessing child pornography, extortion, and identity theft.
Raniere is serving 120 years in USP Tucson.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis expressed dismay that state and federal authorities in the Albany region were aware of Raniere’s “illegality and abuses”, but did nothing about it.
He included the feds in his chastisement.
At the July 2021 sentencing of Lauren Salzman, Judge Garaufis said,
“How in the world this went on for so many years in Albany, New York, and its environs will forever be a sad mystery to this court.”
Catherine Oxenberg was a member of NXIVM at one time. Then she fell away from it, but her daughter, India, remained and joined DOS, the master-slave group, in 2015.
Catherine worked hard to get India out of the group.
Catherine came to me in late May 2017 and exposed the existence of DOS. I published the first of a series of stories on DOS on June 5, 2017. That led to the cratering of NXIVM, and the New York Times wrote a story about it in October 2017.
That led to the DOJ for the Eastern District of NY taking an interest in Raniere in November of 2017.
“I had to expose my own daughter as a branded sex slave on national media,” Oxenberg said, “which was really, like, a low point in my life.”
In March 2018, the FBI arrested Raniere.
India quit DOS before she was indicted and assisted the prosecution.
The Albany Times Union has reported on NXIVM since 2003.
Their 2012 series “Secrets of NXIVM” reported allegations of Raniere’s involvement with underage girls.
Last week, Catherine Oxenberg came to Saratoga County to announce her support of Saratoga DA Candidate Michael Philips.
Rob Gavin from the Albany Times Union reported:
NXIVM leader Keith Raniere’s uncanny ability to avoid criminal prosecution in the Capital Region over two decades is now an issue in the race for Saratoga County district attorney….
Democratic candidate Michael Phillips… questioned why it was federal prosecutors in Brooklyn who took down the convicted sex trafficker known as “Vanguard.”
Phillips blamed his opponent, District Attorney Karen Heggen…
“Where were the local prosecutors? What was going on? These people [NXIVM] were an open secret in Saratoga County,” Phillips said… “The Saratoga County district attorney needs to be held accountable for her lack of action on this.”
Oxenberg asked, “How come nobody in the government was ever held accountable? … What’s the deal with that? They’re still in office.”….
Saratoga County DA Karen Heggen
DA Heggen told the Times Union:
This was bigger than Saratoga County. This didn’t just occur in Saratoga County. This just didn’t occur in the Northern District. This just didn’t occur in New York state. It occurred, not just through the United States, but internationally.”
This is a debatable point. Most of NXIVM’s activities occurred in two counties – Saratoga and Albany.
NXIVM headquarters was in Colonie, New York, part of Albany County.
Longtime Albany County DA David Soares’ relatives took NXIVM classes.
In 2007, Soares allowed an NXIVM member to work in his office for several weeks to build a case against Joseph O’Hara, an NXIVM enemy.
Soares indicted O’Hara, but a judge dismissed the case.
In 2015, Soares chose his former ADA employee Holly Trexler as special prosecutor to indict NXIVM enemies John Tighe, Joe O’Hara, Barbara Bouchey, and Toni Natalie.
Natalie told the others that she had permission to access NXIVM password-secured website when she did not. As a result, they were all charged with computer trespass.
Ironically, Saratoga County DA Heggen’s office declined to prosecute the NXIVM enemies.
P. David Soares
NXIVM went to Albany DA Soares for help.
Trexler charged them with felonies, but she later agreed to dismiss the case.
It was not the only time Saratoga County did not act on a case against NXIVM enemies.
In 2009, NXIVM members tried to get Saratoga County’s DA’s office to arrest Barbara Bouchey.
Mark Vicente was one of those.
He testified at Raniere’s trial that he sent a letter to Heggen’s predecessor, Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III, alleging that Bouchey “flagrantly defamed” Raniere and NXIVM.
Vicente accused Bouchey of extortion.
No charges were filed.
TU Reporter Gavin wrote of the coupling of Oxenberg and Philips:
Phillips said he contacted Oxenberg a few months ago about the fact that NXIVM operated in Saratoga County for more than 15 years before federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Raniere in March 2018. Authorities arrested him in the Mexican fishing village of Chacala, where he had fled in the months after the New York Times, following initial coverage by blogger Frank Parlato, exposed Raniere’s private “master/slave” club in which women were physically branded on their pelvic areas.
There was quite a bit of back and forth last week between Philips and Heggens, with Oxenberg weighing in.
Oxenberg said she is endorsing Phillips for DA because her daughter India was “One of many who paid the price of the Saratoga County district attorney’s negligence.”
Oxenberg said: “My hope had been the government would have come in and clean up around here, and that just didn’t seem to happen. For me I would not much want to talk about this, as it’s one of the darkest chapters in my life and my family’s life, but it was important for me to show up today.”
“Where were you when women were being extorted and branded in Clifton Park and Halfmoon?” Phillips said of his opponent at the press conference.
Heggen responded saying her office didn’t get any information about NXIVM and what they were doing to women.
“This was a case that was prosecuted by one of the largest attorney’s offices in the country, the Eastern District of New York, which is housed in Brooklyn,” Heggen said. “My office handles crimes committed solely in Saratoga County. The indictments and allegations in which Keith Raniere and others were convicted talk about acts throughout New York State, throughout other states, beyond the borders of this country. It was a multi-jurisdictional case.”
Phillips countered, saying he would’ve “hammered NXIVM to the ground” had he been DA.
“There are a lot of resources to be used there,” Philips said. “My take on this is that the resources are there, they weren’t focused on where they needed to be.”
Heggen said staffing is adequate to keep the county safe, touting it as one of the safest counties in the state.
“We don’t have the numbers of people,” Heggen says. “Clearly, the scope of this investigation revealed that it had to be a large office.”
Oxenberg says she tried to go to several local, state and media to help those impacted by NXIVM.
This writer put together hundreds of pages of documents for her to bring to law enforcement.
Keith Raniere captured in Mexico on March 25, 2018
It took nine months from when Frank Report first revealed the branding to the arrest of Keith Raniere.
Heggen told NEWS10 that the leaders of NXIVM being prosecuted at a federal level was the right way to handle the case, as parts of the scheme took place in New York, other parts of the U.S., and internationally.
“My office has jurisdiction only as it relates to matters that occur in the county of Saratoga,” Heggen said, “and so therefore, I think Mr. Phillips is demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the scope and the abilities that the Saratoga County District Attorney has to handle matters that have multiple jurisdictional issues involved.”
Heggen reminded her constituents that while she was working as an Assistant DA, the office would not assist NXIVM leaders going after former members in 2009.
She neglected to remind them that while she was DA, her office chose not to prosecute NXIVM enemies for computer trespassing.
Clare Bronfman and others falsely claimed their computer servers were in Albany County, where an agreeable David Soares awaited them.
“The people like Mr. Raniere and those on his behalf tried to convince us to, in fact, prosecute people who had left their organization,” Heggen explained, “and we declined to do that.”