Keith Raniere, the convicted leader of NXIVM, has been ordered to pay $3.5 million to 21 victims of his sex-trafficking scheme, in part to surgically remove scars from branding rituals.
The cult leader was sentenced to 120 years in prison following his conviction for racketeering, sex trafficking, child pornography possession and other crimes.
The brands depicting Raniere’s initials were meant to symbolize the womens’ status as sex slaves for the self-help guru who once had an international following. A judge in federal court in Brooklyn also ordered Raniere to return “collateral” — nude photos and other potentially embarrassing material — that was used to extort and manipulate the victims.
Raniere, appearing by video from an Arizona prison, told the judge he was baffled by the restitution order.
“I have never handled collateral,” he said. “I don’t know anything about it.”
He added at another point: “I don’t know who the victims are.”
Filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer made Raniere a more recognized name with their docuseries “The Vow,” broadcast on the premium cable HBO.
“The Vow” is a high-profile documentary projects about the stranger-than-fiction story of the cult-like organization that began in the 1990s as a New Age-y executive improvement and personal growth executive improvement and personal growth self-help program that was run largely as a Ponzi scheme.
Over time, NXIVM adherents came to realize the programs were designed to exploit weaknesses and facilitate forms of blackmail, retaliation and financial crimes.
Clare Bronfman, a 41-year-old heiress to the Seagrams spirits fortune, and former “Smallville” star Allison Mack are among those who have been convicted of crimes in connection with the group. Bronfman was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison and Mack was sentenced to three years.
Tens of millions of dollars of gifts from Bronfman and her sister, Sara Bronfman, are known to have been a vital source of support for NXIVM over the years. Mack went from perky child star to sex cult leader involved with a group so deranged that women were persuaded to submit to receiving a brand near the vaginal area as a twisted bonding ritual.
Raniere — known as “Vanguard” and “the smartest man in the world” among members of the multi-level marketing organization called NXIVM, based in Albany, New York — was sentenced last year to 120 years in prison for his conviction on racketeering conspiracy and other charges. It was another instance where he refused to take responsibility. Іn 2019, hе wаѕ соnvісtеd оf fеdеrаl сrіmеѕ, whісh іnсludеd ѕех trаffісkіng оf сhіldrеn аnd соnѕріrасу.
“I do believe I am innocent of the charges. … It is true I am not remorseful of the crimes I do not believe I committed at all,” he said.
Starz broadcast its own NXIVM docuseries, “Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult,” which put survivor India Oxenberg and her mother Catherine Oxenberg’s stories in the spotlight.
It was unclear if Raniere has the means to pay restitution that’s also intended to cover costs of mental health treatment and unpaid labor. Bronfman has been paying his legal bills.
The hearing on Tuesday was interrupted near the end when one of Raniere’s lawyers, Marc Fernich, lashed out at U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis for not granting a delay in the proceeding so that Fernich could go to a funeral.
“It’s a lack of human decency and it’s disgraceful,” the lawyer said.
The judge, who said the schedule actually gave Fernich enough time to attend, sat for a half hour in stony silence until the lawyer apologized.