Keith Raniere, the founder of Nxivm – the “manipulative sex cult” that thrived as “a multi-level marketing organization that offers personal and professional development seminars” for the rich and famous – is being nailed with charges of a racketeering conspiracy involving an array of crimes, including identity theft, extortion, forced labor, sex trafficking, money laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of justice, according to documents unsealed on Tuesday in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
Raniere and former actress Allison Mack, a high-ranking member of Nxivm, were previously charged with sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy in an indictment filed April 20, 2018 in connection with the New York-based cult, which has made headlines in recent years for its famous following, its practice of physically branding some of its members, and its aggressive attempts to silence critics by way of multi-million dollar litigation.
The unsealed documents, however, reveal that the government’s on-going investigation and the many of the individual charges, some of which each carry with them up to 20 years’ imprisonment, are not limited to Raniere, 57, and Mack, 35. In addition to the group’s leader – who is known as the “Vanguard” and the former “Smallville actress,” Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, along with fellow Nxivm executive board members Kathy Russell, Lauren Salzman and Nancy Salzman are also being charged.
“As alleged in the superseding indictment, for over a decade, Keith Raniere was the leader of a racketeering conspiracy in which he and members of his inner circle committed a broad range of serious crimes from identity theft and obstruction of justice to sex trafficking, all to promote and protect Raniere and Nxivm,” United States Attorney Donoghue stated on Tuesday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York revealed this week that the indictments allege that “from at least 2003 through the present, Raniere and his inner circle of co-defendants comprised an organized racketeering enterprise engaged in criminal activities with the aim of promoting, enhancing and protecting Raniere and members of the enterprise by recruiting others into Nxivm.”
In addition to the self-improvement and humanitarian-focused Nxivm program – which attracted the likes of English business magnate Richard Branson, Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson, former U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello, and Seagram heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman, per a 2010 Vanity Fair article, the U.S. Attorney’s Office states that some individuals were recruited into the group’s secret sect, called DOS.
According to court documents, DOS is a manipulative “master/slave” system as part of which its female members were required to “adhere to extremely low-calorie diets” in order to achieve the physique that Reniere preferred, and “have sex with Raniere.”
Some of the criminal activities at play, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, included “Raniere and Bronfman conspiring to commit identity theft arising out of a scheme to obtain the e-mail usernames and passwords of perceived enemies and critics of Raniere in order to monitor their electronic communications,” and participating “in an identity theft conspiracy involving the use of credit card and banking information belonging to one of Raniere’s sexual partners after her death in November 2016.”
“Raniere and Lauren Salzman trafficked a victim, who was once a sexual partner of Raniere’s, for labor and services,” according to the U.S. Attorney. “The victim was confined to a room in Clifton Park, New York, for nearly two years as punishment for having romantic feelings for a man who was not Raniere.”
Moreover, “Salzman, in her role as second-in-command to Raniere within Nxivm, conspired with Raniere and others to obstruct justice by altering records in connection with a civil lawsuit initiated by Nxivm against a former Nxivm student.” In particular, before turning over videos of Nxivm classes for discovery, “Salzman engaged in a scheme to edit videos of courses she had taught to remove materials that she and her co-conspirators believed would have supported the former student’s [counter]claims.”
Still yet, Raniere and Kathy Russell “conspired to commit identity theft as part of a scheme to smuggle an alien into the United States through Canada after the alien was denied entry,” according to the indictment. “Russell provided the alien with an identification card bearing the last name and birthday of a dead woman.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated on Tuesday that if convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years’ imprisonment for racketeering conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy charges, as well as a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment for the identity theft conspiracy charge. In addition, Raniere and Mack each face mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years’ imprisonment, and up to life imprisonment, on related charges of sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy.
“As alleged, this long-running conspiracy crossed multiple avenues of criminal activity, which included, among other things, electronic monitoring; identity theft; extortion; victim smuggling; and illegal trafficking of a victim after a period of unlawful confinement. The details of these alleged crimes become more and more grim as we continue to dig deeper into the conduct of this organization and its intended mission,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Today’s superseding indictment highlights our commitment to bringing justice to Nxivm’s many victims.”
The case and the still-ongoing investigation is being handled by the U.S. Attoney’s Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section.