Keith Raniere promised a path to happiness, seducing wealthy people who felt they lacked a higher purpose in life. His company, NXIVM, offered self-improvement workshops that became popular in Hollywood and business circles.
But beneath the surface, Raniere was a puppet master controlling a cultlike criminal enterprise, prosecutors revealed at his trial. Some women in NXIVM were sexually abused by Raniere and even branded with his initials in a secret ceremony.
On Tuesday, Raniere, 60, was sentenced to 120 years, effectively life, in prison for sex trafficking and other crimes.
The sentencing, in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, followed hours of often wrenching testimony from 15 victims, many of whom described how Raniere had left them traumatized and struggling to make themselves whole again.
The first to speak was a witness identified only as Camila, who in a trembling voice recalled the precise date that she was sexually abused by Raniere: Sept. 18, 2005.
She was 15, and he was 45. He insisted, she said, that they both recognize the date as their anniversary.
The relationship lasted 12 years, Camila said, with Raniere expecting her to be available for sex at all hours. He ordered her to weigh less than 100 pounds and directed her to get an abortion. She said she tried to kill herself once.
Another victim, India Oxenberg, told the court that Raniere tried to poison her relationship with her mother, actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose efforts to extricate her daughter from the organization were part of a recent HBO documentary series about NXIVM called “The Vow.”
Former NXIVM members said Raniere and his inner circle preyed on insecure people who hoped that immersing themselves in expensive self-help classes would unlock the key to fulfillment. Even highly educated people became trapped inside Raniere’s system, which he sold as the only way to overcome their fears, shaming anyone who tried to quit.
A jury convicted Raniere in June 2019 after a six-week trial. Prosecutors charged him with racketeering, applying a statute that had been used to dismantle the Mafia families in New York. Besides sex trafficking, the jury found him guilty of crimes that included child pornography, forced labor, identity theft and obstruction of justice.