The founder and the chief executive of a wellness education company founded in San Francisco have been indicted for forced labor conspiracy.
According to the United States Department of Justice, this is in connection to a years-long scheme to obtain labor and services from members.
An indictment on Tuesday in a federal court in Brooklyn reveals that Nicole Daedone, founder and former Chief Executive Officer, and Rachel Cherwitz, former Head of Sales at OneTaste, Inc., subjected volunteers, contractors and employees to “economic, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, surveillance, indoctrination, and intimidation.”
“Under the guise of empowerment and wellness, the defendants are alleged to have sought complete control over their employees’ lives, including by driving them into debt and directing them to perform sexual acts while also withholding wages,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a press release. “This prosecution should serve as a reminder to both employer and employee that no matter the marketing mantra, this conduct is never acceptable.”
According to the indictment, OneTaste, which branded itself as a “sexually-focused wellness education company,” was founded by Daedone in 2004.
Until 2018, the company generated revenue by providing courses, coaching, and events related to wellness practices.
OneTaste members frequently lived in residential warehouses where, the indictment states, “they participated in courses and experimented sexually.”
Because of OneTaste’s ideology, Daedone, and Cherwitz demanded commitment and instructed members to engage in sexual acts “as a requirement to supposedly obtain freedom and enlightenment and demonstrate their commitment.”
At different points in time, OneTaste maintained operations in New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Las Vegas, Boulder, Austin, and London.
The pair also had abusive employment practices, allegedly promising to pay OneTaste members wages and commissions for work performed and then failing to pay them.
They also groomed members to engage in sexual acts with current and prospective investors, clients, and beneficiaries “for the financial benefit of OneTaste.”
Cherwitz was arrested Tuesday and is expected to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Daedone currently remains at large.
If convicted, Daedone and Cherwitz each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.