Oct. 28 (UPI) — Keith Raniere, leader of a purported self-help group, was sentenced to 120 years in prison Tuesday on charges related to forcing women into a sexual slavery cult.
Raniere, 60, was sentenced in federal court in Brooklyn, where former members of NXIVM — the Albany, N.Y.-based self-help group he founded — said he preyed on insecure people believing they were joining a women’s empowerment group who were later pressured into having sex with him and blackmailed to remain silent.
More than 18,000 people have taken NXIVM classes in the United States, Mexico and Canada since it was founded in 1998. Raniere created a secret sorority called DOS inside the group in which female “slaves” turned over compromising material and were then blackmailed into sex.
“You are a sexual predator and you raped me,” one of the victims, India Oxenberg, said in court. “When you touched me, I recoiled.”
In June 2019, Raniere was convicted on one count each of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking.
During a jailhouse interview with Dateline NBC on Friday, Raniere apologized for the damage he caused his victims but maintained he was innocent.
“This is a horrible tragedy with many, many people being hurt,” he said. “There is a horrible injustice here. And whether you think I’m the devil or not, the justice process has to be examined.”
Multiple co-conspirators, including NXIVM’s president, Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, bookkeeper Kathy Russell, and actor Allison Mack, who prosecutors said recruited women to the group, have all pleaded guilty to various charges in the case.
Seagram liquor heiress Claire Bronfman, a key benefactor of NXIVM, was sentenced to 81 years in prison after pleading guilty to illegally harboring someone in the United States for unpaid “labor and services” and committing credit card fraud on behalf of Raniere.
Raniere has directed supporters to launch a podcast about his case and established a contest offering a $25,000 cash prize in exchange for finding errors in his prosecution in an effort to overturn his conviction.