By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -The founder of OneTaste, a sexual wellness company that claims to teach “orgasmic meditation”, has been charged with forced labor conspiracy, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
OneTaste founder Nicole Daedone, who also served as chief executive until 2017, and former head of sales Rachel Cherwitz were accused of inducing volunteers, contractors and employees to incur debt to take courses that they claimed could heal sexual trauma and dysfunction.
Prosecutors in the New York City borough of Brooklyn said the defendants also subjected OneTaste members to surveillance in communal homes, instructed them to engage in sex acts for “freedom and enlightenment,” and failed to pay promised wages.
Daedone, 56, is at large. Cherwitz, 43, was arrested on Tuesday, and is expected to appear on Wednesday morning in San Francisco federal court.
Their lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Founded in 2004, California-based OneTaste was the subject last year of the Netflix documentary “Orgasm Inc,” which followed its rise and includes interviews with former members.
While the two executives were charged, prosecutors did not charge the company with wrongdoing.
In a statement, OneTaste CEO Anjuli Ayer said the company had cooperated with prosecutors, and the charges were unjustified because of “OneTaste’s culture of individual empowerment, choice and consent.”
“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,” Ayer said.
According to an indictment, Daedone and Cherwitz deliberately recruited people who had suffered trauma and sought to limit their contact with people outside the OneTaste community, including by breaking up romantic relationships.
The indictment was dated April 3 but made public on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)
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