Sep 30, 2019

CultNEWS101 Articles: 9/28-29/2019

NXIVM, Ozen, Cult Recovery, Apocalyptic Groups, PodcastGülen, Fethullahist

"Convicted sex-cult leader Keith Raniere will not be sentenced until 2020, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said at a hearing in Brooklyn Friday [September 13, 2019].

Sporting a new buzz haircut, convicted sex trafficker and former NXIVM cult leader Raniere wore wrinkled tan scrubs and sneakers to court, in a departure from the sweaters and slacks he donned at trial.
After an emotional six-week trial, a jury in June found Raniere guilty of sex trafficking, forced labor, wire fraud, creation and possession of child pornography, conspiracy to commit identity theft, extortion, and trafficking and document servitude.

Now, one of his defense attorneys wants to become a prosecutor.

"This is a very unusual circumstance," said Garaufis on Friday in the conflict-of-interest hearing, called a curcio hearing.

It is more common for lawyers to leave the government and go to the private sector, as lead Raniere prosecutor Moira Penza did earlier this summer when she joined the boutique firm Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz. Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York Tanya Hajjar appeared for the government at Friday's hearing.

Hajjar signed a letter to Garaufis on Sept. 4 advising him her office had received an application from Teny Geragos, an attorney at the well-known New York defense firm Brafman & Associates. Alongside lead counsel Marc Agnifilo, Paul DerOhannesian and Danielle Smith, Geragos represented Raniere throughout his trial.

"The government respectfully submits that the pending application on the part of Ms. Geragos to the Office gives rise to a potential conflict of interest. However, in view of the nature of the conflict, Raniere may waive his rights and continue to be represented by Ms. Geragos," said the letter, adding the government thinks Raniere could waive the conflict."

"Allison Mack is currently awaiting prison sentencing for her racketeering crimes in the NXIVM sex cult, months after she pleaded guilty. Now, former member Sarah Edmondson is ripping the lid off of the former Smallville star's corrupt actions in the disgraced organization for the first time – and has exclusive details of the revelations.

In Scarred: The Truth Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult that Bound My Life, out on Sept. 17, Edmondson bravely comes forward about the horrific abuse she both witnessed and endured at the hands of the organization's highest executives, during the 12 years she was a member.

Edmondson, a Canada native, wife and mother of two, tells the story about how she abruptly left NXIVM in 2017 after learning that the "women's empowerment group" known as DOS that she joined was actually an inner sex ring, where women were branded with cult leader Keith Raniere's initials."

"NXIVM leader Keith Raniere is due to appear in Brooklyn federal court.

Raniere was convicted in June on charges that included racketeering, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of a child.

Prosecutors say while NXIVM was billed as a self-help group, it was really a sex cult set up like a pyramid scheme.

Friday's hearing is to determine if there may have been a conflict of interest within Raniere's legal team.

Raniere is due back in court for sentencing on Sept. 25."

"Michael Gerard, 23, first heard about the guru Ozen online in August 2014, when he was searching for a cure to his depression.

The tall, thin student from Germany with an interest in science and politics had a diagnosis of agoraphobia and a history of suicidal thoughts. A friend described him as one of the brightest people at a boarding school they attended together. Family said Gerard badly wanted a girlfriend, but was struggling with dating.

By then, he was already a follower of Osho, the controversial spiritual leader who had built communes in India and Oregon and was featured in the popular Netflix series Wild Wild Country. Because of Osho, who died in 1990, Gerard had become a vegan, and had started meditating and practising yoga.

That day in August, he ran to his mom, laptop in hand, exclaiming that he had found a disciple of Osho, and begged her to let him go to Mexico.

The Osho disciple is named Ozen Rajneesh or Swami Rajneesh, and his legal name is Rajnish Agarwal.

In his book Tears of the Mystic Rose, Ozen claims to be the successor of Osho, writing that when the original guru died, his spirit entered him.

When Gerard found him online, Ozen and roughly two dozen followers were in the middle of building a massive ashram in the Mexican jungle, a 35-minute drive down a rough dirt road from the coastal resort town of Playa del Carmen. Drone footage shows massive concrete structures emerging from the forest canopy, arranged in a circle around a deep cenote. There was an art centre, a restaurant, a Buddha meditation hall, and dozens of cottages and studios. Wood pathways wound through the jungle connecting the buildings, and swans and peacocks roamed the property. The guru called it OZEN Cocom, after a Mayan dynasty that previously controlled the Yucatán Peninsula.

Ozen told his followers the Mexican commune would offer Osho-like meditations for free, unlike Osho International Foundation, in Pune, India, which charges $700 US to $2,200 US a month.

He immediately reached out to Ozen, telling him he was depressed, had a history of suicidal thoughts, and was desperate to join the commune.

According to emails between Gerard and Ozen, Ozen told him if he wanted to visit the commune, he had to buy a cottage. It would cost between $16,000 US and $33,000 US, and $5,000 US cash to reserve one. They were selling fast. Gerard said his mother had doubts, but the guru assured him that Ozen Cocom was a legally-registered non-profit with a board of directors and shareholders.

Gerard flew to Mexico on April 11, 2015, with about 400 euros (about $450 US). It's unclear if he ever put any money down for a cottage. Ozen did not respond when we asked if Gerard gave him money.

When Gerard arrived, he volunteered to work construction, without pay. In emails to his mom, Gerard said people at the ashram were nice to him, and they often went dancing on weekends. "Mom, I cannot express how deeply you were mistaken," he wrote. He asked her to send him money, saying everyone was investing in the project. She transferred 60 euros (about $70 US) into his account every month, but he asked for more.

In September, four months after he started working on the commune, Gerard told other residents he had reached enlightenment. But it was short-lived. Soon after, residents say Gerard locked himself in his cottage and refused to come out for days.

The next thing his fellow residents heard was that Gerard had left his cottage and walked alone into the dark, dense jungle.

No one has seen him since."

"For the past five years, I have received a daily email filled with stories about those who succumb to extreme religious ideologies. Whether it's the Nxivm sex-cult trial in New York earlier this year or the Netflix documentary series "Wild Wild Country," Americans have shown an expansive appetite for cult stories. While my interest in the topic isn't unique, it's personal: I grew up in a cult."

"The host of Snap Judgment opens up about being agnostic and rethinking the role of belief after growing up in an apocalyptic cult. Plus, the parts of your spiritual upbringing stick that with you in unexpected ways. Hosted by Lee Hale. From KUER and PRX."

Wikipedia: Gülen movement
"The Gülen movement (Turkish: Gülen hareketi), commonly know as FETÖ in Turkey (Turkish: Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü) Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, is a self-described transnational social movement based on moral values and advocation of universal access to education, civil society, tolerance and peace, inspired by the religious teachings of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic preacher who has lived in the United States since 1999. Owing to the outlawed status of the Gülen movement in Turkey, some observers refer to those the movement's volunteers who are Turkish Muslims as effectively of a sub-sect of Sunni Islam; these volunteers generally hold their religious tenets as generically Turkish Sunni Islam. The movement also includes participants from other nationalities and religious affiliations."

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Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

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