The leader of a secretive cult in upstate New York has been arrested in Mexico on charges of sex trafficking and forced labor for allegedly keeping women as “slaves” and branding them with his initials.
Keith Raniere — the co-founder of an allegedly torturous and psychologically manipulative secret society, NXIVM — was busted by authorities in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta and brought to Texas on Monday, according to the Brooklyn US Attorney ’s office.
“Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said.
“These serious crimes against humanity are not only shocking, but disconcerting to say the least, and we are putting an end to this torture today.”
The complaint alleges that many of the victims had Raniere’s initials “branded in their pubic regions” with a cauterizing pen in a “tribute” that could last 30 minutes.
“During the branding ceremonies, slaves were required to be fully naked, and the master would order one slave to film while the other held down the slave being branded,” the complaint said.
The cult leader began running workshops in 2003 on the NXIVM compound about 20 miles outside of Albany, according to the federal complaint.
Some of Raniere’s curriculum included teaching women about “the need for men to have multiple sexual partners and the need for women to be monogamous.”
This led Raniere to start a secret society within NXIVM called “DOS” in 2015 — an organization that operated as a pyramid with “slaves” and “masters.”
Raniere, the only male, was at the apex.
The group would ask women for damaging information, such as sexually explicit photos — and the information would apparently be released if the women went public with details of the program.
They were also required to engage in excruciating acts, such as taking cold showers and standing for an hour at 4 a.m. while being told to practice celibacy and remain “exceptionally thin.”
They were eventually groomed to have sex with Raniere who had a “rotating group of 15 to 20 women” who he had sex with, according to the complaint.
The entire scheme began to unravel when a DOS “slave” defected in 2017, which led to an article in The New York Times.
Ranier, who fled the country shortly after the Times report was published, will appear in a Forth Worth, Texas, court on Tuesday.
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