The leader of NXIVM, a group that espoused a philosophy of self-improvement but was accused of recruiting, grooming and even branding an inner circle of female sex slaves, was found guilty Wednesday by a federal jury in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Keith Raniere, who was known as "Vanguard," was convicted on all charges, including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, human trafficking and multiple counts of racketeering — including sexual exploitation of a child.
Raniere, 58, faces up to life in prison. His sentencing is set for Sept. 25.
Following the verdict, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue called Raniere "a modern-day Svengali."
"This trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact, a massive manipulator, a conman and crime boss of a cult-like organization involving sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion compelled abortions, branding degradation and humiliation," Donoghue told reporters.
He said Raniere's crime spree — which "ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives" — had finally ended "and his victims will finally see justice."
Throughout the trial prosecutors argued NXIVM was a criminal enterprise that operated largely in secrecy. The Albany, N.Y.-based group operated across the U.S. and in several other countries. Its devotees included an actress, an heiress and a 15-year-old girl; several of its high-ranking members have also been charged.
Throughout the six-week trial, several women offered disturbing details of their experience with Raniere in what they said they initially believed was a women's empowerment group. They testified that he ultimately blackmailed dozens of women into joining a secret society of "slaves" and "masters" called "DOS" or the "Vow," that operated as a sex cult under a pyramid-scheme system in which they turned over a trove of damning "collateral" and often were left financially indebted to him.
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