NEW YORK – The leader of a self-described self-help group in upstate New York turned female followers in the “slaves” were branded with his initials, and forced into sex, authorities alleged Monday in a criminal complaint charging him with sex-trade.
Keith Raniere, co-founder of the group called Nxivm, was arrested in Mexico and returned to Texas, Monday, authorities said. He was to appear in court on Tuesday in Fort Worth on the charges filed by the federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.
According to the complaint, Raniere known within the group as a “Vanguard” — oversaw a barbaric system in which women were told the best way to advance was to a “slave”, performed by the “masters.” They were also expected to have sex with him and do menial chores for the masters, and to keep the scheme a secret or publicly humiliated, the complaint says.
The name of Raniere’s lawyer was not immediately available on Monday. In a letter attributed to Raniere previously posted on a website in connection with Nxivm, he denied the practice were punished by his group.
“These accusations are the most disturbing for me as non-violence is one of my most important values,” the letter said.
The complaint said that many of the victims participated in video ceremonies where they were branded in the pubic area with a symbol with Raniere initials.
“During the branding ceremonies, slaves were needed to completely naked, and the master would to a slave of the movie, while the other impressions of the slave to be branded,” the complaint says.
The researchers said Raniere preference exceptionally thin women, so “slaves” in the group had to stick to very low-calorie diets, and documenting all the food that they ate.
Raniere left the United States at the end of last year after The New York Times reported the stories of a number of women who defected from their secret sorority.
The group’s website describes Raniere as a “scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, teacher, inventor and author” who “dedicated his life to studying the human psychodynamic and developing new tools for human empowerment, expression and ethics.”
Nxivm, the Mexican branch is led by Emiliano Salinas, son of the country’s former president. A number of women who belong to the group in Mexico, traveled to Albany, where they were branded, two former Nxivm members told the Times.
Salinas has also denied that the association is affiliated with Nxivm.