The FBI released redacted documents this week on the cult community known as the “Twelve Tribes,” revealing numerous allegations against the group, including child sexual abuse, drug trafficking, ritual abuse, and forced labor.
The 61-page document—released by the bureau’s Vault library on June 25—included separate complaints detailing the alleged crimes, mostly against children. The cult has communes all over the United States, including Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Florida, California, Tennessee, and more.
In 2013, a preliminary investigation was conducted by the FBI, based on a complaint the bureau received from the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina that children were being “sexually exploited” at a Twelve Tribes compound in the town of Hiddenite. The case was closed the same year.
Twelve Tribes has communes around the world, with the Hiddenite location being one of its training centers.
Documents showed that drugs were used at the commune and placed into “ritual” bread—usually LSD and hallucinogenic plants, as well as heroin and meth. There were also ritual ceremonies once a month that involved the bread being broken and gang rapes.
Punishment within the cult involved being beaten with a rod and having the wife or children of the accused being sexually assaulted by other cult members. The sheriff’s office had been aware of the Hiddenite location since 2006 and that much of the land in the area was owned by the cult, since families who joined had to turn over their property.
Members of the Hiddenite compound also allegedly were forced to go to a location and work all night and day for “three straight days,” in what was known as a “push” that involved three or six members. Those working were allowed to drink coffee that may have had something added to it to keep them awake.
In a prior complaint included in the released documents, a name that was redacted had contacted the public access line to report child sexual abuse in a Twelve Tribes commune located in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The person had said children were threatened not to tell the police or anyone else about the beatings or sexual abuse, and that the cult ran a restaurant in the area.
Yet another document, one from 2010, detailed how a former member was allegedly sexually and physically abused by cult members as a child but had repressed the memories. In 2009, the former member had seen a psychologist, who reported the abuse to local authorities, and had also contacted national leaders of the cult to inform them of her abuse. The former member also attended personal meetings with the cult leaders.
After a meeting on a date that was redacted, the former member was killed in a car crash that “was not accidental” and was allegedly “orchestrated” by cult members to prevent the woman from “propagating the claims of abuse.”
In the Twelve Tribe cult, members were also “allowed to punish any child belonging to the community.” The FBI document detailed how members would take their children to be “wooped,” meaning beaten, if they smiled at another child during a gathering, or if they were “horsing” around.
“Bigger children have missed ‘gathering’ for a couple of days at a time because they were beaten so badly and left in a condition where they could not attend,” the documents said, based on an interview with an FBI agent.
One former member said that they were once “locked in a cellar, beaten, and deprived of food.”
A federal jury, made up of eight men and four women, deliberated for less than five hours before finding Raniere guilty of all 7 criminal counts including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and racketeering.
Raniere listened attentively but showed no visible reaction as he learned the verdict. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25.
The accusations against Raniere center around a secret society within the group—which he allegedly created in 2015—named DOS, an acronym for the Latin “dominus obsequious sororium,” loosely translated as “master of the slave women.”
Prosecutors say Raniere was the “highest master” of DOS and forced other members—all women—to have sex with him. Many of the DOS members were branded with a cauterizing pen while naked and being filmed.
Days ago, during closing arguments in the high-profile trial, assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza alluded to the prosecution’s May 7 opening statements, telling the jury that Raniere was chiefly after “sex, money, power.”
Penza brought up the testimony of former NXIVM members, including one identified by prosecutors as “Daniela,” who had spoken about being locked up in a room for nearly two years after Raniere found out she had kissed another man. Another member, identified as Sylvie, testified about being forced into a sex act with the leader. Another, a senior board member, detailed Raniere’s manipulation and fraud.
The verdict comes after a 7-week long trial. Raniere could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.