Oct 7, 2021

Judge hands down final sentence in NXIVM case

Former NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell was spared prison time.

Aaron Katersky and Meredith Deliso
October 6, 2021

A federal judge has handed down the final sentence after nearly four years of litigation against NXIVM, a purported women's self-help group that prosecutors have portrayed as a sex cult and criminal enterprise.

Former NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell was spared prison time and instead sentenced Wednesday to two years' probation and 200 hours of community service.

Federal prosecutors had wanted Russell imprisoned for up to a year for visa fraud after she pleaded guilty to providing false documents to the U.S. Consulate in Mexico on behalf of Loreta Garza, a Mexican citizen they said managed an offshoot of NXIVM.

Garza later became one of several "first-line masters" in a secretive NXIVM subgroup that starved women, deprived them of sleep and required them to relinquish blackmail material, according to prosecutors. Other women were branded on their pelvic area with the initials of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere.

Prosecutors said Russell participated in a number of NXIVM's criminal activities at Raniere's direction, but she made clear during the sentencing hearing she now rejects him.

"I denounce NXIVM and I denounce Keith Raniere," Russell said, calling him a "monster."

Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison last year following his 2019 conviction on sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering charges. Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for what they said was Raniere's "immeasurable damage" to victims over 15 years of crime and exploitation, while defense attorneys asserted his "complete innocence."

"Smallville" actress Allison Mack was also sentenced in June to three years in prison after she pleaded guilty to blackmailing women and subjecting them to sexual humiliation after recruiting them into a subgroup of NXIVM.

Others also sentenced for their roles in the upstate New York-based organization included NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, who awaits a 42-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy; her daughter, Lauren Salzman, who was sentenced in July to five years probation and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service after pleading guilty to racketeering charges; and Seagram's heiress, Clare Bronfman, who was given 81 months of prison time last year after pleading guilty to harboring an undocumented immigrant for financial gain and committing credit card fraud on behalf of Raniere.

Russell was the last defendant sentenced in the high-profile case.

"This sentencing is the final event in an almost four-year-old litigation that has demonstrated to everyone the great harm that can be done to so many by so few," Judge Nicholas Garaufis said.

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