A federal judge recently rejected the Nxivm founder's motion seeking $1 million bail, calling Keith Raniere a "flight risk"

By Chris Harris
February 15, 2019 09:46 AM
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Credit: Matt Baron/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

A federal judge has denied a third request for bail from Nxivm founder Keith Raniere, meaning the leader of the controversial New York-based self-help group will remain behind bars until at least April 29 — the scheduled start of his trial on sex trafficking and forced labor charges.

The judge’s recent decision to reject the motion for $1 million bail argues that Raniere remains a flight risk, according to records obtained by PEOPLE.

The order refers to Raniere’s decision to travel to Mexico in the fall of 2017, upon learning investigators were closing in on Nxivm to arrest some of its senior members.

The defense’s request for bail argued that once freed, Raniere would not flee the country, because “he would risk losing the love and respect of his friends — in particular, the love and respect of his sureties, who would lose the money they had posted for bail.”

Keith Raniere

The judge countered that given the seriousness of the charges against him, “the potential loss of love and respect is an unavailing substitute for a financial stake in his appearance.”

Nxivm, which suspended operations in 2018, has been described by at least one former member as a “cult.”

One of the group’s most prominent members, actress Allison Mack, was charged last April with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy.

Best known for her years-long role as Chloe Sullivan on The WB’s Smallville, Mack is facing a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Raniere, who was arrested in March 2018, faces the same charges plus wire fraud and racketeering. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Both he and Mack have pleaded not guilty, and their trial is set to begin in April.

Federal investigators have accused Mack of recruiting women into a sub-group of Nxivm that was purported to be a female mentorship group to address their weaknesses but was, allegedly, a group created by Raniere that took advantage of women sexually.

“The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants’ benefit,” Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, alleged in a statement issued at the time of Mack’s arrest, referring to both Mack and Raniere.

Allison Mack, leaving court last spring
| Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty

Nxivm was based out of Albany, New York, and has been the subject of scrutiny from both law enforcement and journalists after it came under fire from Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose estranged daughter, India, joined the group in 2011.

Oxenberg first opened up to PEOPLE in 2017 about how she believed India had been “brainwashed” by Nxivm.

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Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, was charged last July with racketeering conspiracy in connection to her involvement with the group. She has pleaded not guilty and was released on a $100 million bond, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. District Attorney alleged in a press release that Bronfman helped Raniere — known as “Vanguard” to his followers — monitor the electronic communication of his “perceived enemies and critics.”