By Skyler Romero  LA Journal Staff Writer  

A wellness company accused of sex trafficking, forced labor and money laundering has moved to stop the federal government from intervening in a Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit against one of  its most prominent accusers.

Attorneys for OneTaste Inc.  claimed that prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York seek to violate their client’s right to discovery by asking that the case be stayed pending their own criminal investigation of the company.

Founded in 2004, OneTaste bills itself as an education and wellness company focused on teaching a practice known as orgasmic meditation.

Last October, the company sued a former member of its program, Ayries Blanck.  It had previously settled her claims that the company had forced her to partake in sexual acts with staff, supervisors and customers, ac­ cording to the opposition filed on Fri­  day. On&Taste Incorporated v. Ayries Blanck, et al., 22STCV33093 (filed Oct. 7, 2022).

“The company decided to settle the claim rather than-go through the cost of litigation, as many cases are settled,” Edwin F. McPherson, who represents OneTaste, said in a phone interview Friday. He suggested that the government has not made it clear whether she is involved in the investigation.  I’ve  never heard of – and criminal lawyers that I know have never heard of – the government coming  in, trying to stay a case against someone who they can’t even say if it’s a witness or not — which is a little bit odd, since they’ve already got indictments, so at some point they’re going to have to tell the secret as to whether or not she’s a real witness or just a potential witness,” said McPherson of McPherson LLP in Los Angeles, who represents OneTaste.

Despite agreeing as part of the settlement not to disparage the company further, the opposition motion said, Blanck continued to make the claims in public, which became the subject of multiple high-profile print exposés and documentaries, including one on Netflix. “Blanck has conveyed a completely false and defamatory account of One­ Taste (and others) in the media,” the opposition read. “Every claim that Blanck has made, whether paid for her story or not, is demonstratively false. Each time that Blanck has participated in a story that is derogatory of OneTaste, OneTaste and its thousands of participants have been further substantially injured.”

In an answer to OneTaste’s lawsuit against her, Blanck listed affirmative defenses including failure to state a claim, statute of limitations and unclean hands. She is represented by Joshua A. Waldman and Rosamund M. Lockwood of Burkhalter Kessler Clement & George LLP in Irvine, who could not be reached for comment by phone or email by press time on Friday.

 In May, U.S. Attorney Breon S. Peace of the Eastern District of New York filed a highly redacted motion to intervene and stay the case against Blanck.

In Thursday’s opposition to that motion; McPherson said it stemmed from a criminal investigation by the district into OneTaste initiated by Blanck’s accounts in 2018.

The investigation has since resulted in indictments for former OneTaste CEO and co-founder Nicole Daedone as well as former head of sales Rachel Cherwitz on forced labor charges ­ although not for the company itself, the opposition noted.  

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us, because people who worked for this company were paid, so we don’t know what forced labor is,” McPherson said on Friday. “In any event, those are the charges against these two women, but the company has not been charged yet, and the U.S. attorney’s office is trying to get this case stayed, I guess because they don’t want anybody to question their potential witness.

McPherson called the district’s assertions that Blanck is a potential fact witness in the federal investigation speculative and vague. “EDNY does not state how Blanck might be a witness, or against whom she might be a witness, or, perhaps more importantly, why, after over five years of investigating, the government cannot figure out whether Blanck actually is a witness, or how many other potential witnesses there might be (whose cases EDNY will presumably try to get stayed as well),” he wrote in the filing. “This attempt is not even close to the showing re­ quired to warrant intervention, let alone a stay.”  

A hearing on the government’s motion to intervene is set for July 19. [email protected]