The Oct. 27 sentencing—which likely amounts to life in prison for 60-year-old Raniere—comes after a federal jury found Raniere guilty last year of all seven criminal counts including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, and racketeering.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis handed down the sentence after a number of victims issued statements during the day of the abuse and trauma they suffered at the hands of Raniere. Government prosecutors were seeking a life-in-prison sentence, while Raniere’s lawyers argued he should face 20 years.
In a brief statement to the court, Raniere claimed he was innocent of any crimes. He also said he felt “remorseful” for the pain he caused to his followers.
The umbrella organization known as NXIVM presented itself to the public as a company with noble goals, offering self-help courses to those seeking to improve their lives both personally and professionally. But its facade fell away after the group’s founder and leader was arrested in 2018 for recruiting members of the organization into a secret society to be branded and made his sexual “slaves.”
The master-slave society known as DOS employed a pyramid structure involving levels of “slaves” headed by “masters.” Slaves were then expected to recruit their own slaves, thus becoming masters themselves. 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.
NXIVM’s classes served as a “hunting ground” of sorts for Raniere to use in scoping out women, former NXIVM member Susan Dones previously told The Epoch Times.
In DOS, directly under Raniere were six so-called first-line masters, who were slaves only to him. Those in the first line, which would be equivalent to the second tier in a pyramid scheme, had to recruit six more women each as their own slaves. Then each of those six would then recruit their own slaves as well.
DOS members were allegedly recruited on the condition that they would give up personal, often embarrassing, information about themselves, including compromising images or videos, as “collateral.”
At least 17,000 people enrolled in NXIVM’s self-improvement classes throughout the course of its two-decade-long history. Founded in 1998, the company, which used the structure of a pyramid scheme, would continue to grow until its peak membership in 2016.
NXIVM’s ex-publicist and whistleblower, Frank Parlato, told The Epoch Times after the sentencing that Raniere’s chances of a successful appeal to the sentencing were slim.
“I think that this was the inevitable consequence of his actions,” Parlato said outside the federal court. “Everything that he did led him to this day today—and he is where he belongs.”
Critical media coverage of the group’s inner workings played a pivotal role in the group’s demise, helping to prevent future members from joining and ultimately culminating in an FBI investigation into Raniere.