SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco-founded wellness education company is at the center of a federal indictment. Former executives of OneTaste are facing forced labor conspiracy charges in connection with allegedly grooming members to engage in sexual acts with current and prospective investors, clients and employees.
According to an unsealed federal indictment former OneTaste founder and CEO Nicole Daedone and former OneTaste Head of Sales Rachel Cherwitz obtained the labor and services of OneTaste members by subjecting them to economic, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse; surveillance; indoctrination; and intimidation between 2006 and 2018.
FBI San Francisco arrested Cherwitz Tuesday morning.
She appeared in federal court Wednesday and was released on a $300,000 bond.
ABC7 News I-Team Reporter Melanie Woodrow was the only reporter outside of court when Cherwitz was released. She did not answer Woodrow's questions.
Daedone is still at large.
According to the indictment, Daedone and Cherwitz recruited members who had suffered prior trauma and induced them to open lines of credit to finance expensive courses they could not afford, as well as subjected them to surveillance in communal homes OneTaste oversaw.
Prosecutors say under the guise of empowerment and wellness, the defendants allegedly sought complete control over their employees' lives by driving them into debt and directing them to perform sexual acts while also withholding wages.
Cherwitz left court with Anjuli Ayer, the current CEO of OneTaste, now based in Santa Rosa.
In an emailed statement dated June 6, 2023, Ayer writes:
"OneTaste founder Nicole Daedone and OneTaste former sales director Rachel Cherwitz were today indicted by the Eastern District of New York on unfounded allegations of forced labor. Given OneTaste's culture of individual empowerment, choice and consent, this is completely unjustified. Five years ago, the FBI began an investigation into OneTaste that was wholly based on an error-riddled Bloomberg Businessweek article that contained false and since-debunked accusations of harm and wrongdoing. The Eastern District of New York subsequently opened an investigation based on this and other copycat media stories. This apparently culminated in the forced labor charges which were unsealed today. We have cooperated with the Eastern District of New York throughout the investigation. We are appalled by this long-term, misogynistic, media-driven campaign to tear down a feminine empowerment project and the women who devoted their lives to it. OneTaste is a women-led organization that has devoted itself to wellness, healing, inclusion and personal growth, and has always focused on female empowerment at its core. The practice of Orgasmic Meditation ("OM") has been misunderstood and maligned despite ever-expanding scientific evidence demonstrating its beneficial impact. OneTaste, under its current ownership, has strived to improve, listen to criticism, adjust and evolve in ways that bring those myriad benefits to many more people, who are able to practice OM on their own time and on their own terms. This is our continuing mission. We remain undeterred even as we commit to fully defend ourselves and the practice that has transformed our lives, in the face of a multi-year, media-instigated campaign."
Cherwitz's next court appearance will be in the Eastern District of New York.
If you are a current or former member or employee of OneTaste who would like to speak with ABC7 News, you can email investigative reporter Melanie Woodrow at firstname.lastname@example.org or message her on Twitter @MelanieWoodrow.
Take a look at more stories and videos by the ABC7 News I-Team.
If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live