The leader of the alleged cult which inspired the HBO documentary The Vow has been sentenced to 120 years in prison.
NXIVM founder Keith Raniere was convicted last year of racketeering, sex trafficking, possession of child pornography and other crimes, as the BBC reported.
Created in 1998, the group described itself as a multi-level marketing company “guided by humanitarian principles,” which offered personal and professional development seminars from its base in Clifton Park, New York.
NXIVM’s tagline promised that the organization was “working to build a better world”. It claimed to have worked with more than 16,000 individuals across the US, Canada, Mexico and Central America in order to achieve that goal.
As its leader, Raniere was allegedly recruiting women as slaves, branding them, and forcing them to have sex with him.
The prosecution argued that he should spend his life behind bars as punishment for the “immeasurable damages” he caused to NXIVM’s victims.
In addition to his life sentence, District Judge Nicholas Garaufis also fined the 60-year-old $1.75 million at the sentencing hearing in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Raniere’s lawyers have maintained his innocence throughout and have blamed his conviction on a “media campaign involving witnesses who were motivated to testify falsely.”
Raniere was the only member of NXVIM’s leaders to face trial, as others charged with abusing their power took plea deals. He himself never took the stand during his trial.
U.S. authorities began investigating the group after a New York Times exposé was published in 2017. One former member known as Daniela testified that she had been “groomed” for Raniere to take her virginity for weeks before she turned 18.
She also told the court that she and her sisters were forced to have abortions after being impregnated by him. She added that she and one of her sisters — who was underage — were forced to have sex with the leader a number of times.
Members of the purported cult allegedly included Hollywood actresses, heiresses, and the son of a former Mexican president, some of whom took the stand to testify against Raniere.
As The Inquisitr reported, India Oxenberg — the daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg — was one of NXIVM’s victims. Her alleged personal tormentor was actress Allison Mack, who was best known for her role as Chloe Sullivan on Smallville.
Mack rose through NXIVM’s ranks to become a senior figure over 12 years, per Rolling Stone. She admitted to coercing female members into sleeping with Raniere, enforcing unhealthy diets, delivering violent punishments, and threatening to blackmail any dissenters.
In 2018, FBI agents arrested Raniere in Mexico after he left the U.S. following the New York Times report. Mack is still under house arrest awaiting sentencing.