The leader of the “NXIVM” sex cult that included Smallville actress Allison Mack was sentenced Tuesday in Brooklyn to 120 years in federal prison. Keith Raniere, founder of the “self help” program and purported pyramid scheme, was found guilty in July 2019 of sex trafficking, racketeering and other felonies in an Eastern District courtroom.
Prosecutors has sought a life sentence for Raniere, and his attorneys were arguing for 15 years. The wild details from the Department of Justice about the case are laid out below.
The NXIVM case — which played out like a screenplay from its first mention by authorities — was the subject of two recent docuseries: The Vow, which bowed August 23 on HBO and has been renewed for a second season, and Starz’s Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, a four-parter that launched October 18.
NXIVM Sex Cult Leader Keith Raniere Talks To NBC News, Proclaims ‘I Am Innocent’
Raniere’s sentencing comes nearly a month after Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman was sentenced to more than 6 1/2 years in prison and a half-million-dollar fine for her role in the NXIVM cult. The half-sister of Edgar Bronfman Jr. — who was the head of Canadian beverage giant and Universal Pictures owner Seagram’s when it acquired by Vivendi in 2000 and became CEO of the new Vivendi Universal — had pleaded guilty in April 2019 to charges of conspiracy to conceal and harbor an illegal alien for financial gain and the fraudulent use of identification.
Mack pleaded guilty in April 2019 to charges of co-creating a program called The Source, which recruited actors. She had cited Scientology as a defense in her case.
Here are details of the case that the DOJ released last year:
According to court filings, during the past 20 years, Raniere established a series of purported self-help programs within his umbrella organization “Nxivm” (pronounced NEX-i-um). Nxivm is based in Albany, New York and has operated centers in the United States, Mexico, Canada and South America. Nxivm maintains features of a pyramid scheme, as its courses cost thousands of dollars each and participants (“Nxians”) are encouraged to pay for additional classes and to recruit others to take classes in order to rise within the ranks of Nxivm. A number of Nxians were residents of the Eastern District of New York when they were recruited, and Nxivm has held promotional recruiting events in Brooklyn. Mack is credited in publicly available materials with co-creating a Nxivm program, called The Source, which recruited actors.
As detailed in court filings, in 2015, Raniere created a secret society within Nxivm called “DOS,” an acronym that stands for a Latin phrase that loosely translates to “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,” or “The Vow.” DOS operated with levels of women “slaves” headed by “masters.” Slaves were expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owed service not only to their own masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid. Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid. Other than Raniere, all members of DOS were women. Mack is one of the women in the first level of the pyramid immediately below Raniere.
Mack and other DOS masters recruited DOS slaves by telling them that they were joining a women-only organization that would empower them and eradicate purported weaknesses that the Nxivm curriculum taught were common in women. Mack and other DOS masters concealed Raniere’s status at the top of the pyramid from new recruits.
As a pre-condition to joining DOS, women were required to provide “collateral,” which included highly damaging information about friends and family members, nude photographs and/or rights to the recruit’s assets. DOS slaves were told that their collateral could be released for any number of reasons, including telling anyone about DOS’s existence or leaving DOS. Many DOS slaves were branded on their pelvic areas using a cauterizing pen with a symbol which, unbeknownst to them, incorporated Raniere’s initials. During the branding ceremonies, slaves were required to be fully naked, and a master would order one slave to film the branding while the others restrained the slave being branded.
According to court filings, Mack directly or implicitly required her slaves, including Jane Does 1 and 2, as identified in the Indictment, to engage in sexual activity with Raniere. In exchange for this, Mack received financial and other benefits from Raniere. Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 believed that if they did not participate in those activities with Raniere, their collateral would be released.