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The Leader Of An Alleged Secret International Sex Cult Has Been Charged With Child Porn

Keith Raniere, a self-help guru who allegedly recruited women into his group and forced them to be sex slaves, also victimized teenage girls, according to new court filings.

Posted on March 13, 2019, at 8:05 p.m. ET

In this courtroom sketch, Keith Raniere, second from right, attends a court hearing on April 13 in New York.
Elizabeth Williams / AP

In this courtroom sketch, Keith Raniere, second from right, attends a court hearing on April 13 in New York.

The co-founder of NXIVM, the self-help group that was allegedly used as a front of a secret sex cult, now faces child pornography charges.

Federal prosecutors, who announced the charges Wednesday, allege Keith Raniere took photos of two underage girls, one of whom he made a "slave."

Authorities in New York arrested Raniere last year, busting open the bizarre operation of the self-help group that prosecutors say recruited women into a type of pyramid scheme, then brainwashing and manipulating them into becoming sex slaves while following strict diets and performing manual labor.

Allison Mack departs federal court after a bail hearing in relation to the sex trafficking charges.
Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Allison Mack departs federal court after a bail hearing in relation to the sex trafficking charges.

Several women, including former Smallville star Allison Mack and Seagram liquor heir Clare Bronfman, allegedly helped run the operation and are awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

In some cases, leaders of the secret organization branded women with Raniere's initials, threatened them with violence, and blackmailed them with sensitive material, such as naked photos and secrets about family members and friends, to keep them in the organization, also called the "sorority," court documents state.

The cult leader was already facing a slew of charges, including sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy.

In their new charges, US attorneys allege that Raniere, known to his followers as "Vanguard," had sexual relationships with two underage victims. NXIVM's cofounder, Nancy Salzman, hired a 15-year-old girl who, 10 years later, became Raniere's "first line 'slave'" in the group. Raniere also had a sexual relationship with another "child," which the group's leaders knew of and helped facilitate, the government said.

Salzman pleaded guilty to conspiracy during a hearing in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Her daughter, Lauren, has also been charged in the case.

Mack and Raniere face 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

NXIVM, which is based in Albany, was founded in 2003. The foundation describes its philosophy as "a new ethical understanding" that allows "humanity to rise to its noble possibility," and claims to have centers around the US, Canada, Mexico, and Central America, according to its website.

Raniere disseminated teaching videos on YouTube and on his site and relied on members of his "inner circle," dubbed "first-line masters," to recruit new members, often for a lofty price tag, according to the FBI. His followers, known as Nxians, would pay up to $5,000 for a five-day workshop and were encouraged to recruit others to help ascend the ranks and reach certain "goal levels," authorities said.

New members were mostly women "currently experiencing difficulties in their lives," and accrued mounting debts from the courses, forcing them to take jobs with the organization to pay them off, according to court filings.

Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid, prosecutors said.

He is set to go on trial next month.


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