NXIVM leader Keith Raniere set for arraignment for alleged sex slave network

Democrat and Chronicle/March 27, 2018

By Joseph Spector and Jon Campbell

Albany -- Keith Raniere, who co-founded the secretive Albany-area group NXIVM, is set to be arraigned Tuesday in Texas on charges that he led a secret society that used woman as sex slaves and branded them.

Raniere, who was known as “The Vanguard” by followers of the cult-like group, was charged Monday with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. 

After the New York Times in October published a report on the branding of women, Raniere fled to Mexico.

He was found outside Puerto Vallarta in a luxury villa.

Raniere’s initial appearance is scheduled Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas. 

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Prosecutors are seeking no bail for Raniere, who grew up in Suffern, Rockland County.

"The defendant, who was living in Mexico prior to his arrest and has access to vast resources, poses a significant risk of flight," court papers said Tuesday.

"In addition, his long-standing history of systematically exploiting women through coercive practices for his own financial and sexual benefit demonstrates that, if released, he would pose a danger to the community."

Toni Natalie, a Rochester-area women who dated Raniere in the 1990s, said seeing the news of Raniere's arrest Monday was "surreal."

Natalie has spoken out against Raniere and NXIVM for nearly 20 years, warning of his manipulative techniques and assisting women who defected from the group. Raniere has tied Natalie up with lawsuits and court proceedings since they broke up in 1999.

“To hear the relief from these women – for all of us, it’s really over," Natalie said Tuesday. 

"Every five or six years, a group of women comes out and I sit down with them and support them any way I can. And every time, he walks away. He’s not walking away this time."

NXIVM participants would allegedly sign up for a weeklong course that could cost $5,000. When they couldn't pay, they "remained obliged to NXIVM," the allegations in a federal complaint unsealed Monday showed.

"Ranerie has maintained a rotating group of 15 to 20 women with whom he maintains sexual relationships," the complaint states.

Masters were used to turn women into sex slaves who were beholden to Raniere, the complaint said.

“As alleged in the complaint, Keith Raniere created a secret society of women whom he had sex with and branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.

In the Albany area, there were media reports Tuesday of raids at homes associated with the group.

Raniere did not respond to emails seeking comment Monday, and it remains unclear who his attorney is.

Catherine Oxenberg, the Dynasty actress whose daughter remains involved in NXIVM, issued a statement Monday saying she wants to "help all the young women affected by this cult."

Oxenberg has been out of touch with her daughter in recent months and had raised concerns about her well-being.

"They are the victims of human trafficking – which is slavery," she said in the statement.  "For months, I have worked to expose Keith Raniere and Nxivm and today’s arrest vindicates my efforts. I want my daughter to know I love her and that I want her back in my life.”

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