Sixty-year-old former NXIVM leader, Keith Raniere, who preached empowerment and happiness through his organization but was secretly running a sadistic sex cult, has been sentenced to 120 years in prison, per the New York Times, effectively a life sentence. He was also ordered by the Brooklyn judge presiding over the case to pay $1.75 million in fines.
NXIVM (pronounced “nexium”) was founded by Raniere in 1998 and gained popularity for its series of self-help workshops, often targeting creative types, under the “Executive Success Programs” (ESP) moniker, some of which were held in the Capital Region and recruited members here. But it turned out that Raniere—or “Vanguard,” as he was known to followers—was leading a double life, running a secret sex lair out of a Halfmoon home in a quiet, residential neighborhood. At “The Library,” as the house was known, an inner-circle of women, known as “slaves,” were forced to have sex with Raniere and others were even branded with his initials. The house was eventually raided by the FBI, but not before Raniere fled to Mexico. He was eventually arrested in 2018, extradited and found guilty on a laundry list of charges, including racketeering and sex trafficking, after a six-week trial in 2019.
The cult didn’t only have a foothold in the Capital Region: Its sphere of influence extended north into Canada and south of the border, into Mexico, as well as reaching into the upper echelons of American society, even infiltrating Hollywood. Actress Allison Mack (Smallville) served as a “recruiter” to the cult, with Mack pleading guilty prior to Raniere’s trial. The cult was, in large part, funded by Clare Bronfman, heiress to the Seagram’s fortune, who spent more than $100 million suing and defaming the organization’s and Raniere’s adversaries. Bronfman also pled guilty before Raniere’s trial got underway and was sentenced to more than six years in prison for her role. (Two other women also pled guilty before Raniere’s trial.)
The verdict was reached after 15 of Raniere’s victims spoke out at the trial, some going into intimate, hard-to-listen-to details about the evils they had suffered at his hands. One was as young as 15 at the time of her repeated sexual abuse by a then-45-year-old Raniere.
For those interested in more information on NXIVM and its followers, a documentary series about it, entitled The Vow, recently aired on HBO.