NXIVM Leader Keith Raniere Sentenced to 120 Years For Sex Cult Crimes

Sketch Keith Raniere in court
Elizabeth Williams via AP, File

FILE- In this April 13, 2018 courtroom sketch Keith Raniere, leader of NXIVM, attends a hearing at court in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

The 60-year-old disgraced self-improvement guru was convicted of a slew of felonies last summer.

Keith Raniere on Tuesday was sentenced to 120 years in prison after he was convicted of seven felonies related to what prosecutors described as a sex cult within NXIVM, an organization of which he was the leader and co-founder.

In addition, the court also imposed a fine of $1,750,000.

“The 120-year sentence imposed on Keith Raniere today is a measure of his appalling crimes committed over a decade,” Seth DuCharme, acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York said in a statement. “Raniere exploited and abused his victims emotionally, physically and sexually for his personal gratification. It is my hope that today’s sentence brings closure to the victims and their families.”

In June 2019, the 60-year-old Raniere was convicted in a Brooklyn federal court — after a six-week trial — of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy and two counts of sex trafficking. He was arrested in March 2018. Other high-ranking NXIVM officials were also charged.

The Tuesday hearing was not televised and those in attendance were not allowed to bring electronic devices into the courtroom — standard federal court policy. So many victims and their families (along with a number of unflinching supporters) attended the sentencing that two overflow courtrooms, as well as the cafeteria, were completely packed, a court official announced before the hearing took place. Prosecutors sought a life sentence for Raniere whereas his lawyers argued for a 15-year sentence.

Several of Raniere's victims (15 in total) read impact statements before the sentence was handed down by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis. One former NXIVM member and victim, identified only as Nicole, reportedly said in part, "We will always have predators. But this is about taking one predator from the streets and that means something. That moves the needle." Another victim, “Camila,” the victim who was sexually exploited by Raniere when she was 15 years old, also spoke. A hearing on victim restitution will be held at a later date.

India Oxenberg, a former member of NXIVM and daughter of actress Catherine Oxenberg, said in a CBS This Morning interview that aired Tuesday morning that she hoped he would be given the max sentence. "I hope the judge gives him life in prison. I think he's a dangerous man and that if he's released, he will do exactly what he's always done. And that puts me and other women and men at risk," Oxenberg said. She also spoke along with the other victims during Tuesday's hearing. Oxenberg's mother said of her impact statement, "My precious daughter... so courageous. My heart breaks."

Days prior to his sentencing, Raniere was denied a request for a new trial.

NXIVM and Raniere were the foremost focus of the recent HBO docuseries, The Vow, which mainly examined NXIVM allegedly being a self-help group — boasting that its members included Hollywood actors and professional athletes — and further exposed the DOS ("Dominus Obsequious Sororium") division as a sex cult. The secret sub-group involved female NXIVM members being physically branded with Raniere's initials; forced to adhere to strict, unhealthy diets; and forced into sexual slavery via "collateral," among other ghastly conditions. The Vow, which ended with a teased interview with Raniere from his cell, is returning for a second season. NXIVM and Oxenberg have also been the focus of a Starz's docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.

Around the same time that his new trial request was being denied, Raniere granted a rare interview in which he claimed his innocence.

"You know, one of the things that’s most important in our country is the justice system. And although, you know, people can hate me and do, and think I’m an odious type of a character, you know, awful actually, he said. "Both the devil and a saint should be able to get the exact same treatment under our justice system."

Each of Raniere’s co-defendants previously pleaded guilty. Last month, Clare Bronfman was sentenced to 81 months after having been convicted of conspiracy to conceal and harbor aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of personal identification information. The remaining co-defendants are awaiting sentencing. Those include Nancy Salzman, NXIVM's president and co-founder, who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy; Lauren Salzman, a first-line “master” in DOS, who pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy; Allison Mack, another first-line “master” in DOS, who pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy; and Kathy Russell, a bookkeeper for NXIVM, who pleaded guilty to visa fraud.