SAN FRANCISCO—The founder and former executive of OneTaste, which is a sexually-focused wellness education company that originated in San Francisco, was charged for forced labor conspiracy on Tuesday, June 6. 

Nicole Daedone, 56, who is one of the co-founders, and Rachel Cherwitz, 43, who was the company’s former executive were indicted in a New York Court. Cherwitz was arrested Tuesday and police are currently searching for Daedone. If convicted they could face a total of 20 years in prison. 

According to court documents the pair led a scheme that claimed to offer wellness and empowerment but ended up controlling the lives of their employees, volunteers, and other members. They were accused of using sex, psychological abuse, and economic exploitation to force employees to work for them.

FBI assistant director-in-charge Michael Driscoll stated, “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 forced labor schemes is held accountable in the criminal justice system.”

“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.”

Daedone and Cherwitz allegedly subjected 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,” according to prosecutors with the US attorney’s office. They both are also being accused of recruiting and grooming members to take part in “sexual acts with OneTaste’s current and prospective investors, clients, employees and beneficiaries, for the financial benefit of OneTaste and, in turn, themselves.”

These crimes were said to have occurred between 2004 when the OneTaste was founded and 2018. 

If you believe you are or may be a victim in this case, please call the FBI New York’s main line at 212-384-4677. 

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, Hell’s Kitchen, Soho and West Village neighborhoods. 

On the same day Daedone and Cherwitz were indicted, OneTaste’s current CEO Anjuli Ayer issued a statement saying that the charges against the pair were “completely 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 in the statement. We remain undeterred even as we commit to fully defend ourselves and the practice that has transformed our lives.” 

OneTaste has been cooperating with prosecutors in this case.