The founder and a former executive of OneTaste — a “sexuality-focused wellness education” company based in San Francisco, have been charged with forced labor conspiracy, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Nicole Daedone, the founder who served as CEO until 2017, and Rachel Cherwitz, who served as head of sales, were accused of using sex, psychological abuse, and economic exploitation to force employees to work for them.

“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,” said the FBI assistant director-in-charge Michael Driscoll.

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.

The pair were also 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.”

In a statement to Rolling Stone on Tuesday, the current OneTaste CEO Anjuli Ayer called the “unfounded allegations of forced labor” 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,” said Ayer. “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.”


Ayer added, “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.”

After a 2018 Bloomberg report included claims by former members accusing OneTaste of pushing them to “sexual servitude and five-figure debts”, the FBI launched an investigation into the company.