Oct 12, 2020

NXIVM Vanguard Keith Raniere Trafficked Women For Years. Some of His Followers Remain Loyal.

The convicted guru and brains behind the sex cult awaits his sentencing in a Brooklyn prison.

Lauren Kranc 
October 12, 2020

Currently imprisoned on convictions for sex trafficking, forced labor, and extortion, NXIVM founder Keith Raniere’s deep-seated misogyny is not news. Still, Episode 8 of HBO’s The Vow reveals how Raniere’s ideas penetrated and influenced the greater community and curriculum of NXIVM even beyond DOS, the secret women’s society where women were starved, punished, and branded. Footage in this week’s episode shows Raniere’s slower, more subtle methods of molding NXIVM’s female members into subordinates—it’s a deeply troubling hour of television that illustrates just how profoundly and systemically Raniere's desire to manipulate women runs.

After the crumbling of his illegal pyramid scheme Consumers’ Buyline in 1996, Raniere founded self-help organization NXIVM in 1998. HBO’s 9-part documentary illustrates how Raniere, who was called "Vanguard" within NXIVM, amassed a large following and a harem of women for himself in Clifton Park, NY over the years. Armed with a god complex and pseudo-science, Raniere’s foundational Executive Success Programs sprawled many subgroups over time, such as the men’s only group called Society of Protectors, women’s only group called Jness, and eventually DOS, the secret women’s group that would domino the entire organization in 2017.

After a New York Times story exposing the branding and slavery rituals within DOS—which stands for Latin phrase Dominus Obsequious Sororium, and can be roughly translated as “lord over the obedient female companions”—ran in October of 2017, media buzz and a floundering member base drove “Vanguard” and a small group of his most devoted followers to Mexico. But in February of 2018, a complaint was issued in federal court requesting an arrest warrant for Keith, and in March he was arrested and deported back to New York.

Raniere pleaded not guilty to the slew of crimes he was charged with, and in June of 2019, was convicted by a Brooklyn jury of all counts against him—racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and wire fraud conspiracy—in less than five hours. He faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment and up to life in prison. His high-profile sentencing is currently set for October 27, and he is currently imprisoned in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center.

Raniere’s sentencing closely follows Clare Bronfman’s, which took place on September 30. Bronfman, a Seagram heiress and longtime NXIVM financial backer, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification. If she had gone to trial, Bronfman could have faced up to 25 years in prison, but her plea deal brought her projected sentencing guidelines down to 21 to 27 months. However, last week she received six years and nine months in prison—an above guidelines sentence—which could foretell a similar fate for her guru Raniere.

Until then, and just when you think NXIVM couldn’t get any more creepy, Raniere’s remaining devout followers will reportedly be dancing for him outside his Brooklyn prison every night.


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