OneTaste Founder and Former Head of Sales Indicted for Forced Labor Conspiracy
An indictment was unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn charging Nicole Daedone, founder and former Chief Executive Officer, and Rachel Cherwitz, former Head of Sales, of OneTaste, Inc. (OneTaste), a wellness education company founded in San Francisco, California. Daedone and Cherwitz are both charged with forced labor conspiracy in connection with a years-long scheme to obtain the labor and services of a group of OneTaste members—including volunteers, contractors, and employees of OneTaste—by subjecting them to economic, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, surveillance, indoctrination, and intimidation.
Cherwitz was arrested this morning and is expected to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California this afternoon. Cherwitz will be arraigned in the Eastern District of New York at a later date. Daedone remains at large.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Peace. “This prosecution should serve as a reminder to both employer and employee that no matter the marketing mantra, this conduct is never acceptable.”
“The defendants advertised their company as being able to help individuals recover from past trauma. In reality, they allegedly targeted their victims in order to manipulate them not only into debt but to limit their independence and create a reliance on OneTaste for basic needs. The FBI will continue to ensure that anyone willing to engage in a forced labor schemes are held accountable in the criminal justice system,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.
As alleged in the indictment and court documents, OneTaste branded itself as a sexuality-focused wellness education company founded by Nicole Daedone in 2004. From approximately 2004 through 2018, OneTaste generated revenue by providing courses, coaching and events related to so-called wellness practices, in exchange for a fee. Many OneTaste members lived in residential warehouses where they participated in courses and experimented sexually.
At various points in time, OneTaste maintained operations in, among other locations, New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Las Vegas, Boulder, Los Angeles, Austin and London. In New York City, OneTaste leased residences and hosted events in several different locations, including in Brooklyn, Harlem, Hells Kitchen, Soho and West Village neighborhoods.
Daedone served as the Chief Executive Officer and a leader of OneTaste from the company’s founding until approximately 2017. Rachel Cherwitz served as OneTaste’s Head of Sales from approximately 2009 through 2018.
As alleged in the indictment, between approximately 2004 and 2018, Daedone and Cherwitz deployed a series of abusive and manipulative tactics in order to obtain the labor and services of a group of OneTaste members who were volunteers, contractors, and employees of OneTaste. Daedone and Cherwitz intentionally targeted for recruitment to OneTaste individuals who had suffered prior trauma and advertised that OneTaste’s courses and teachings could heal past sexual trauma and dysfunction. If the members could not afford OneTaste’s courses—which ranged from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars each—Daedone and Cherwitz induced the OneTaste members to incur debt, and at times directly assisted the OneTaste members in opening new credit cards, to pay for them.
Daedone and Cherwitz also undertook tactics designed to render the OneTaste members dependent on OneTaste for their shelter and basic necessities, and to limit the OneTaste members’ independence and control. Among other things, they subjected the OneTaste members to constant surveillance in communal homes and collected deeply sensitive and personal information about them which the defendants then used to render the OneTaste members emotionally, socially and psychologically dependent on OneTaste. They isolated the OneTaste members from their support networks by breaking up established relationships and assigning them to move to new locations on short notice. While employing such tactics, Daedone and Cherwitz demanded absolute commitment to Daedone, including by exalting Daedone’s teachings and ideology. As part of this ideology, Daedone and Cherwitz instructed the OneTaste members to engage in sexual acts—including acts the members found uncomfortable or repulsive— as a requirement to supposedly obtain freedom and enlightenment and demonstrate their commitment to OneTaste and Daedone.
Upon securing the allegiance of the OneTaste members through these tactics, Daedone and Cherwitz engaged in abusive employment practices. For example, Daedone, Cherwitz and other OneTaste leaders promised to pay the OneTaste members wages and commissions for work performed on behalf of OneTaste and subsequently failed to pay the OneTaste members the amounts owed, or changed the OneTaste members’ employment statuses or locations without advance notice. Daedone and Cherwitz also recruited and groomed OneTaste members to engage in sexual acts with OneTaste’s current and prospective investors, clients, employees and beneficiaries, for the financial benefit of OneTaste and, in turn, themselves.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Daedone and Cherwitz each face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
If you believe you are or may be a victim in this case, please call the FBI New York’s main line at 212-384-5000.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Section. Assistant United States
San Diego, California
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 23-CR-146 (DG)
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office