Keith Raniere, an American self-help “guru” was arrested on Sunday in a luxurious villa in Puerto Vallarta and deported to the United States accused of sex trafficking and forced labor.
Raniere, 57, founded a secret society that branded his sex slaves with his initials like done with cattle by burning. The self-help organization “NXIVM”, created 20 years ago and located in Albany, New York. Raniere, also known as “The Vanguard,” will appear Tuesday before a federal judge in Texas.
“Raniere showed a gross abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered to be his sex slaves,” New York FBI chief William Sweeney said in a statement. “He participated in horrible acts to mark and burn two of them (…) Today we are ending this torture,” he added.
He can be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment. NXIVM, which operates in the United States, Mexico, Canada and South America, lead workshops by Raniere since 1998. Attendees paid up to $5,000 for a five-day workshop and had to sign confidentiality agreements, prosecutors said.
With an entourage of 15 to 20 women with whom he had sexual relations from the beginning, he is accused of creating in 2015 a small ultrasecret group called “DOS”, totally composed of women and with several levels of “slaves” and “mistresses”. The slaves had to recruit other slaves, especially from NXIVM.
To enter DOS, women had to submit videos, photos and compromising information that was then used to blackmail them if they wanted to leave the organization. They also signed agreements to cede assets or the possession of their children to Raniere if they broke the silence.
The slaves had to do housework for the mistresses, respond to messages quickly day or night and have sex with Raniere when asked. They also had to maintain diets of less than a thousand calories a day because Raniere liked skinny women.
In ceremonies, “many of the victims of DOS were marked with a cautery pencil in a process that takes 20 to 30 minutes,” said an FBI agent in charge of the investigation. The brand had the initials of Raniere. The ceremonies were filmed and the material was kept as “collateral”. After the public resignation of a “slave” of DOS and the publication of an article in the New York Times last October about the secret society, Raniere fled to Mexico with a wealthy “heiress”. It is suspected that he lived in Monterrey, where NXIVM has a center.