HALFMOON — The FBI searched at least one Halfmoon residence Tuesday, a day after federal authorities unsealed sex trafficking charges against the leader of locally-based NXIVM.
Agents could be seen at 3 Oregon Trail Tuesday morning, and residents of the neighborhood said the home is connected to NXIVM and possibly directly with the group's leader, Keith Raniere.
Raniere faces federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges related to a secret group within NXIVM that, according to authorities, branded its members with Raniere's initials and coerced them into having sex with him.
Raniere made his first appearance in court Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas, according to officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, where he is officially charged. He made no argument for bail and agreed to be sent to Brooklyn.
Detention and preliminary hearings will be held in Brooklyn. No dates for those proceedings have been set.
The home raided Tuesday is owned by Veinte-Seiz LLC, according to Saratoga County records. Neighbors said the home was connected to NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman.
A man who lives in the neighborhood and asked not to be identified said there are multiple homes tied to the group in the neighborhood. He often saw Raniere walking with women there.
"It's that weird dynamic between what you hear that he's done versus what you see as a person individually," the man said.
The resident recalled a conversation with Raniere about a NXIVM property near the neighbor's home. Another resident had a package stolen from a doorstep, and the neighbor noticed a camera on the NXIVM house. The man asked Raniere if he could review footage to try to catch the thief.
"One thing he said is, 'Let me talk to Nancy, ... because all of the video feed goes to her house. She has access to it all,'" the neighbor recalled. "That's the house that's being raided today by the FBI."
Another man who lives in the neighborhood recalled Raniere walking with multiple women at a time. He described the women as "like corpses." Among the allegations in the federal complaint is that many of the women were put on strict diets to conform to Raniere's liking.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn unsealed a complaint Monday against Raniere, detailing elaborate accusations involving a secret society inside NXIVM called DOS, in which women served as masters and slaves and Raniere served as the secretive headmaster. He faces one count each of sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and to commit forced labor.
The organization began in 1998 and offered improvement workshops. The complaint focuses on a period from February 2016 to June 2017, just after the secret society was allegedly developed.
NXIVM is headquartered in Albany and operates around the United States, Canada and Mexico. Many of its members live in Clifton Park, the complaint states.
Federal investigators based the complaint on interviews with a total of eight victims and interviews with additional firsthand witnesses. They also based it on electronic evidence from victims and witnesses and emails seized through search warrants, the complaint states.
Two victims in particular are highlighted in the complaint. Allegations related to both mention Clifton Park. One woman told of having sex with Raniere in Clifton Park out of fear that damaging information would be released about her if she didn't. The other told of being instructed in Clifton Park to have sex with Raniere, but she refused and fled with damaging information about others in the group in order to ensure her own information wouldn't be released.