Leader of US self-help groups 'ran secret society of sex slaves'

By Sophie Hares Time of article published Mar 28, 2018

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Mexixo - The

founder of US-based self-help groups faces the possibility of

life in prison if convicted on charges of sex trafficking,

according to authorities who say he ran a secret society that

enslaved women and branded them with his initials.

Keith Raniere, who was arrested in Mexico, appeared in court

in Fort Worth, Texas on Tuesday for a formal reading of charges

against him.

US authorities say Raniere created a secret society of

women, forcing them to have sex and branding them with his

initials.

He coerced them by threatening to release personal

information and taking their assets, according to a complaint

filed in New York federal court.

"As alleged, Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of

power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he

considered his sex slaves," William Sweeney, FBI assistant

director in charge, said in a statement.

"He allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding

and burning them," he said. "We are putting an end to this

torture today."

Raniere, 57, has run a network of self-help groups based in

Albany, New York called Nxivm over the past 20 years, according

to the court complaint.

A secret society within Nxivm consisted of female "slaves"

required to have sex with Raniere, according to women cited in

the complaint.

The women, who numbered as many as 50, were branded with

symbols including Raniere's initials and forced to adhere to

strict diet to stay thin, said the complaint.

Upon joining, they were required to provide information

about family and friends, nude photographs and rights to their

assets - so-called collateral used to threaten them if they

left, the complaint said.

The women were taught that the society would empower and

strengthen them, the complaint said.

Raniere, arrested on Sunday at a luxury villa near the

Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta, was deported to Texas for his

court appearance.

He faces charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking

conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy.

If convicted, Raniere faces the possibility of 15 years to

life in prison.

He will be moved to New York for further hearings.

Raniere has the backing of a wealthy heiress and access to

an $8 million bank account of a deceased lover, court documents

said.

Authorities said he fled to Mexico after investigators began

interviewing witnesses in November.

On its website, Nxivm calls itself "a community guided by

humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer

important questions about what it means to be human."

In a letter on the site, Raniere said he was "deeply

saddened" and denied "abusing, coercing or harming" anyone. 

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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