Keith Raniere, the spiritual leader and guru of the sex cult NXIVM, whose followers included millionaires and Hollywood actors, was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday for brainwashing some of his followers into having sex with him and sexually abusing a minor.
In addition to his prison sentence, US District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis also imposed a $1.75 million fine. Garaufis said in his decision that the crimes Raniere was convicted of are "cruel, perverse and extremely serious."
What is NXIVM?
Raniere, 60, and his cabal of associates, including Seagram heiress Claire Bronfman, ran the Albany-based NXIVM cult that espoused itself as a revolutionary self-improvement organization that could help its followers become the best versions of themselves. The Dalai Lama even visited Albany to commend Raniere's ethical work in May of 2009.
The organization quickly gained popularity around the globe with celebrities including 'Smallville' stars Allison Mack and Kristin Kreuk, Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson, 'Battlestar Galactica' alum and Mack's wife, Nicki Clyne, 'Dynasty' actress Catherine Oxenberg and 'Hawaii Five-0' star Grace Park among its followers.
The organization charged thousands of dollars for invitation-only self-improvement courses at its headquarters in upstate New York, along with branches in Mexico and Canada.
NXIVM's other notable members include Sheila Johnson, cofounder of Black Entertainment Television; Antonia C. Novello, a former U.S. surgeon general; Stephen Cooper, acting chief executive of Enron; the Seagram fortune's Edgar Bronfman Sr. and two of his daughters; and Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of the Mexican president, according to a 2003 Forbes profile of Raniere.
However, what started as an organization for self-improvement became a vehicle for recruiting and grooming female sex slaves for Raniere after one survivor came forward to the New York Times and exposed NXIVM for what it was.
What was Raniere's Role in the NXIVM Sex Cult Case?
The cult leader not only maintained a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old, he was also accused of forming a secret sorority of brainwashed "slaves," who were branded with his initials and forced to have sex with him, all in the name of personal growth.
Raniere, known as "Vanguard" to NXIVM devotees, used his influence to lure women into what prosecutors say was a private cult, where he had ultimate control over every aspect of the lives of his female "slaves," compelling them to do chores and other tasks.
According to the AP, investigators found that Raniere had a preference for exceptionally thin "slaves," who were forced to stick to low-calorie diets monitored for every food item they consumed. As punishment for not following orders, women were forced to attend classes where they were 'forced to wear fake cow udders over their breasts while people called them derogatory names,' or threatened with being put in cages."
The cult leader was convicted of sex trafficking, racketeering, forced labor conspiracy, possession of child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child and human trafficking charges last year.
Earlier this month, Bronfman was sentenced to nearly 7 years in prison for her involvement in the organization, as previously reported. Other NXIVM members who are still awaiting their sentencing in the sex cult case include Mack, the cult's co-founder Nancy Salzman and her daughter Lauren Salzman.