The creepy male leader of a cult-like upstate “women-only mentorship group” in which the members were branded with his initials and pressured into having sex with him was arrested Monday on federal sex trafficking charges, Brooklyn federal prosecutors said.
Keith Raniere, who the feds say is financially supported by heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune Clare Bronfman, created a twisted pyramid scheme that encouraged other men, referred to as “masters” to convince women, known as “slaves” to share compromising information called “collateral” about themselves or nude photos. They’d then coerce them to perform menial tasks and have sex with the leader, the feds said.
Raniere co-founded the self-help group Nxivm, which he used to establish a secret society known as “The Vow” or “DOS,” court papers say.
“DOS slaves understood that if they told anyone about DOS, if they left DOS or if they failed to complete assignments given to them by their masters, their collateral could be released,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Kim Penza said in Raniere’s detention memo.
Up to 20 women were groomed by their “masters” to diet because he liked thin women, the feds said.
Some were convinced to pay tribute to Raniere by allowing themselves to be branded with his initials.
“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,” according to the criminal complaint. These videos were also used as “collateral.”
After Raniere became aware that the feds were investigating him, he fled to a swanky gated community in Puerto Villarta, Mexico, funded by Brofman, where he dodged immigration officials trying to serve his arrest warrant, according to Penza.
After he was captured, some of his followers chased after officials at high speeds, officials said.
In a statement on the Nxivm website, Raniere denied any wrongdoing.
“Over the past months, there have been extensive independent investigations performed, by highly qualified individuals, and they have firmly concluded that there is no merit to the allegations that we are abusing, coercing or harming individuals,” it read.
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