Nxivm Leader Keith Raniere Gets 120 Years in Prison After Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor Convictions
More than a year after being convicted on federal sex crimes and other charges, Nxivm cult founder Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison, PEOPLE confirms.
The U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of New York announced the sentence on Twitter.
The sentencing of Raniere, 60, comes two years after authorities took him into custody in Mexico — and many years after Nxivm became the subject of scrutiny from both law enforcement and journalists after coming under fire from Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose daughter, India, became deeply involved with the cult for several years.
"For both my mom and I, this case has been more than personal," India Oxenberg says in a statement to PEOPLE. "It's also reassured my faith in the justice system which protects human rights and holds not only the perpetrators accountable for their crimes — but also those who financially support and enable them. I hope that this case, and others, such as Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly's, help to change the laws in the US to protect people against coercion and the abuses of power."
The sentencing follows Raniere's claim of innocence last week in an interview on NBC's Dateline.
Raniere was found guilty of federal sex trafficking, extortion, obstruction, and racketeering charges back in June 2019.
At his trial, prosecutors described Nxivm as a sexual pyramid scheme involving sex slaves, with Raniere at the top. The group had long marketed itself as a group that empowers people and helps them manage emotional trauma, but prosecutors argued it had a darker side, built on coercion and manipulation, and called it a "sex cult."
Watch the full episode of Catherine and India Oxenberg: Surviving NXIVM streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.
Investigators said that Raniere, who was known as "Vanguard" to his followers, occupied the top of a pyramid called DOS, with tiers of female "slaves," each of whom could become a "master" to slaves beneath them.
Prosecutors said DOS members were held down and branded with Raniere's initials just below their bikini lines.
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Before joining, women in DOS were forced to turn over "collateral" — identified as potentially-damaging personal information or materials, such as nude photographs, with which they later could be blackmailed. The women victimized by Raniere believed their "collateral" would be released if they did not engage in sexual activity with him.
Authorities have said Smallville actress Allison Mack was Raniere's top lieutenant in Nxivm, who forced DOS slaves to have sex with Raniere, and that she "groomed DOS slaves for sex with Raniere by requiring [them] to adhere to extremely restrictive diets and not remove their pubic hair (in accordance with Raniere’s sexual preferences) and by requiring them to remain celibate and not to masturbate."
RELATED VIDEO: Catherine & India Oxenberg: Surviving NXIVM
Last year, Mack, 38, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering charges. She, too, will be sentenced soon, but a date has not been set.
Raniere has twice requested new trials, and has twice been denied. A petition has been started by Nxivm members, questioning the legitimacy of the prosecution's case.
NXIVM and the criminal cases of Raniere and Mack have served as the focus of two new documentary series: HBO's The Vow (already renewed for a second season) and the Starz series Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.