Raniere ran an Albany, New York-based company offering pricey “self-help” classes to thousands of people across the United States, Canada and Mexico for two decades. An actress who testified in court said he was revered by his students and some saw him as one of the smartest men in the world.
Now he is facing multiple charges, including racketeering, sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child and human trafficking. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his defense attorney has argued his relationships with Nxivm followers were consensual.
He has been in federal custody in Brooklyn since he was arrested in Mexico last year.
Prosecutors say dozens were lured into secret sex society
Raniere initially recruited eight women within Nxivm’s ranks to join a secret sex society called DOS, or “The Vow,” prosecutors said.
The women in DOS, like most Nxivm members, were originally drawn into the group because they wanted to learn how to be more successful
. A former Nxivm member who was not part of DOS, Mark Vicente, said in court that people would pay for courses costing $7,500 for 16 days. One of those sessions, he said, cleared his feelings of claustrophobia while stuck in traffic jams.
“I had never seen anything that was that effective,” he said. “I was blown away.”
The women Raniere recruited for his “inner circle” saw him as their master and they eventually came to view themselves as “masters” as they recruited more women to be their “slaves,” a criminal complaint said.
Marc Agnifilo, Raniere’s attorney, previously told CNN
that Raniere created DOS as a way for women to have “their own society … where men would play no role.” But prosecutors say Raniere sat at the top of the pyramid group.
, 42, who pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy in March, testified she was a master and had six slaves of her own. She was told that the group would teach women to be “master of your own life.”
While recruiting them, the masters would insist the recruits provide information about themselves as “collateral” to encourage the recruits to keep information about DOS a secret, according to an affidavit prepared by an FBI agent and filed with Raniere’s arrest warrant.
Several women testified in court that they shared sexually explicit photos, granted access to their bank accounts and recorded videos with damaging stories that would hurt their families and those closest to them. Some of the women said the statements were not even truthful.
After being accepted into DOS, members would be branded near their bikini line
with Raniere’s initials, prosecutors and victims said.
During the trial, prosecutors presented a series of recordings of conversations between “Smallville” actress Allison Mack and Raniere in which they discuss a ceremony for the branding. Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges
before the start of the trial.
“Do you think the person who’s being branded should be completely nude and sort of held to the table like a, sort of almost like a sacrifice,” Raniere said in the recording.
Salzman took the stand and spoke about having a ceremony for her six slaves. The first to be branded writhed in pain, she said.
“She was squealing and screaming, and it looked horrendous,” Salzman said. “It scared the other girls.”
Salzman also said she and other masters would paddle their “slaves” with leather belts. Raniere would call in to check how it was going, she testified.