James Gino Salerno, aka ‘Taipan’, will serve almost 10 years’ jail for sexually grooming and abusing a child in his cult. Picture: Greg Higgs.
James Gino Salerno, aka ‘Taipan’, will serve almost 10 years’ jail for sexually grooming and abusing a child in his cult. Picture: Greg Higgs.

Cult leader jailed for abusing child sex slave

SHE spent her childhood under the thrall of the man called "Taipan", groomed to serve as his personal and sexual slave, warned never to speak out and threatened with extreme punishment.

On Monday, she watched from the District Court's public gallery as her tormentor - cult leader and self-styled guru James Gino Salerno - was jailed for almost a decade.

Salerno's purported goal was to create the "ideal human environment", but he will spend at least eight years in the less-than-ideal confines of SA's prison system.

For his victim, who cannot be identified, Salerno's sentence brought about not only the end of her suffering but also a new level of safety for women still trapped in his beliefs.

"Justice has been served," she told The Advertiser outside court.

"The girls can sleep easier, the ones still left in there (the cult) … that's all I wanted from the start, to help the other girls."

Salerno’s cult operated from a mansion at Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills. Picture: SA Police.
Salerno’s cult operated from a mansion at Aldgate in the Adelaide Hills. Picture: SA Police.

Salerno, 72, was found guilty at trial of repeatedly sexually assaulting the woman during the seven year-period in which his cult operated from an Adelaide Hills mansion.

Claiming he possessed the highest "emotional quotient", Salerno demanded his followers align their "thought patterns" with his because they were "good and pure and right".

Those who failed to do so, or displeased him, were disciplined in cruel and regimented ways including deprivation of food and being struck in the head with a 1.2m wooden stick.

Salerno's victim was groomed, from the age of 12, to join the ranks of the women who "groomed" him by servicing his physical, emotional and hygiene needs - and sexual desires.

Since her escape in 2009, she has fought a lonely battle to recover from his abuse because psychologists were more interested in the cult's inner workings than her health.

Salerno, centre, with his supporters, remains head of the cult. Picture: Greg Higgs
Salerno, centre, with his supporters, remains head of the cult. Picture: Greg Higgs

On Monday, Judge Paul Slattery said Salerno's ongoing, repetitive abuse of the woman meant he was, under SA law, a serious repeat offender.

"You remain the leader of your group, and you abused your position of primacy to not only groom and sexually abuse her, but to ensure she was fearful about speaking out," he said.

"You instilled in her that no one would believe her … this has had a profound effect on her and she is still suffering with ongoing physical, mental and emotional issues.

"To this day you maintain your innocence and have shown no evidence of contrition."

He jailed Salerno for nine years, 51 weeks and five days, and ordered he serve an eight-year non-parole period.

Salerno has already filed an appeal against his conviction, which will be heard in October.

The Adelaide Hills compound where James ‘Taipan’ Salerno operated his cult. Picture: South Australian Police
The Adelaide Hills compound where James ‘Taipan’ Salerno operated his cult. Picture: South Australian Police


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