Keith Raniere, leader of NXIVM, a group accused of recruiting underage girls and women as sex slaves, was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Wednesday.
The jury convicted Raniere, 58, of sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of underage girls, forced labor conspiracy, and human trafficking.
During the trial, which started on May 7, several female victims gave disturbing testimonies about how they were lured into NXIVM under the impression that it was a women’s empowerment group. But they ended up being blackmailed into becoming sex slaves for a secret sorority called DOS that operated as a sex cult in which female “slaves” served “masters.”
Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, described Raniere as a “massive manipulator, conman and crime boss.” He also described NXIVM as a “cult-like organization involving sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion, compelled abortions, branding degradation and humiliation.”
He accused Raniere of having been responsible for ruining the careers, marriages, and lives of many people, and expressed satisfaction that justice had finally been served.
Actress Catherine Oxenberg’s daughter was one of the former members of NXIVM. Oxenberg is best known for her role was Amanda Carrington in Dynasty
Actress Allison Mack (who played Chloe Sullivan in The CW’s Smallville) was a high ranking member of NXIVM. The 36-year-old actress pleaded guilty to charges including extortion and forced labor, and is facing up to 40 years in prison.
Raniere faces life in prison. Sentencing is set for September 25.
Who is Keith Raniere?
Ranier was born on August 26, 1960, in Brooklyn, New York City, to James Raniere, who worked as an advertiser. His mother was a dance instructor.
His family relocated to Suffern, NYC, when he was about five, and his parents separated when he was about eight.
He attended Waldorf School in the ’60s and ’70s and later Rockland Country Day School, Suffern. He graduated from high school in June 1978.
There are several anecdotes from his teenage years that appear to paint the picture of a narcissistic personality. Reinere’s father reportedly once told one of his former partners, Barbara Bouchey, that he noticed a change in Keith after he and his mother told him that they thought he was intelligent and gifted. The praise went right to his head and he suddenly developed a superiority complex.
Bouchey also said that Raniere’s mother — who died in 1978 — once told her that she overhead his conversations with several girls who came to the house. Keith separately told each girl that he was in love with them and that they were special. But his mother said he was lying to them.
He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1982.
He became involved with the multi-level marketing company Amway in the ’80s. In 1990, he founded the multi-level marketing company Consumers Buyline and met his girlfriend Toni Natalie in 1991. Natalie’s marriage ended soon after they met and she dated Raniere for many years.
Consumers Buyline came under investigation in 1993 and was shut down after New York State accused him of running a pyramid scheme.
He started National Health Network, a multilevel marketing company that sold vitamins, in 1994. The business folded up in 1999.
He founded Executive Success Programs with Nancy Salzman in 1998. The group promoted itself as offering personal development programs and claimed to train people for self-improvement.
Executive Success Programs was later rebranded as NXIVM, and Raniere adopted the title of Vanguard.
One of his followers, Kristin Marie Snyder, mysteriously disappeared in 2002 after paying $7,000 to attend a self-improvement course.
Soon, sinister stories and allegations began to circulate about NXIVM. One of the group’s former members, the billionaire Edgar Bronfman, described the group as a cult. Other former members, such as Barbara Bouchey and Kristin Keeffe, who had dated Raniere for many years, began making allegations that it was a sex cult. The allegations included sex with underage girls.
The New York Times reported in 2017 that there was a secret sorority within NXIVM whose members were referred to as “slaves.”
Raniere was finally arrested on charges of sex trafficking and forced labor, and his trial began on May 7, 2019. A federal jury found him guilty of multiple charges, including sex trafficking, on June 19.