NXIVM ‘cult’ leader Keith Raniere sentenced to 120 years in prison
NXIVM leader Keith Raniere looks on during his sentencing hearing in a sex trafficking and racketeering case inside the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in New York on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in this courtroom sketch. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)
By Shayna Jacobs
Courts, law enforcement and criminal justice
October 27 at 8:02 PM
NEW YORK — The leader of NXIVM, a purported self-help organization that engaged in international multi-level marketing, has been sentenced to 120 years in prison for running a sex trafficking ring through a secret women's sub-sect of the controversial Albany-based group.
Keith Raniere, 60, whose promises of personal improvement attracted celebrities and wealthy participants, was convicted in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn at a lengthy trial that ended in June 2019 on charges including racketeering, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy.
Raniere, known as “Vanguard” to NXIVM devotees, used his influence to lure women into what prosecutors say was a private cult, where he had ultimate control over every aspect of the lives of his female “slaves,” compelling them to do chores and other tasks for free.
Women in the group known as DOS, an acronym for a Latin name Raniere had chosen, were used by Raniere for sex and were branded with Raniere’s initials in secret ceremonies. Raniere, who was polygamous and involved with a number of NXIVM women, had a preference for ultra-thin women and ensured DOS victims were emaciated-looking by monitoring their paltry calorie intake and shaming them for eating.
Much of the case centered around the sexual relationship he began with a 15-year-old around 2005. Nude photos of the victim were discovered on collections Raniere kept on hard drives.
Jurors heard a recording of Raniere questioning the legitimacy of age of consent laws.
The girl’s parents, from Mexico, were NXIVM believers and sent her and her older sister into to the upstate New York community where they were abused by Raniere, trial evidence showed.
The older sister testified at the trial that she was a prisoner in a room in her family’s home for two years because Raniere told them she needed it to cleanse herself of bad habits that were poisoning the community.
“The 120-year sentence imposed on Keith Raniere today is a measure of his appalling crimes committed over a decade,” acting U.S. attorney Seth DuCharme said in a statement. “Raniere exploited and abused his victims emotionally, physically and sexually for his personal gratification.”
After hearing a number of victims give emotional impact statements in court on Tuesday, Raniere insisted he did nothing wrong.
“I do believe I am innocent of the charges. ... It is true I am not remorseful of the crimes I do not believe I committed at all,” Raniere said, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis also imposed a fine of $1.75 million. Garaufis noted in a sentencing memorandum that Raniere’s conduct was “cruel, perverse and extremely serious.”
Raniere and his minions “targeted the most vulnerable among his community, and they inflicted untold damage,” the judge added.
Several of Raniere’s co-defendants, including “Smallville” actress Allison Mack and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, have pleaded guilty for their roles in enabling Raniere and enforcing his deranged orders.
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