Court documents: Women ‘required to be naked,’ ‘threatened with being put in cages’
It’s a bizarre and twisted tale of brainwashed sex “slaves” who were branded with a leader’s initials on their private parts – and top executives of the secretive group in upstate New York reportedly pumped thousands of dollars into Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Keith Raniere, co-founder of NXIVM, was arrested Monday in Mexico and extradited to the U.S., where he is being charged with sex trafficking. He appeared in court Tuesday in Texas and signed a waiver for US Marshals to bring him back to New York.
On Tuesday, the FBI raided the Albany home of Nancy Salzman, 63, a registered nurse and hypnotist who is president of NXIVM. The organization describes itself as a “community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human.” In a series of articles published by James Odato in the Albany Times Union, NXIVM’s practices were questioned and the group was compared to a cult.
A criminal complaint charging Raniere, 57, with sex trafficking alleges that he made female followers have sex with him and do menial chores for masters. The women were reportedly forced to stay quiet about the arrangement or they would be publicly humiliated.
According to the complaint, victims were branded in their pelvic areas with a symbol featuring Raniere’s initials. The branding was performed with a cauterizing pen. Raniere was reportedly known as “The Vanguard.”
“During the branding ceremonies, slaves were required to be fully naked, and the master would order one slave to film with the other held down the slave being branded,” the legal document states, according to CBS News.
Investigators said that Raniere preferred exceptionally thin women, so ‘slaves’ had to stick to very low-calorie diets and document every food they ate,” CBS reported. “As punishment for not following orders, women were forced to attend classes where they were ‘forced to wear fake cow udders over their breasts while people called them derogatory names,’ or threatened with being put in cages, court papers say.”
Raniere reportedly fled the U.S. last year after the government started interviewing witnesses. Court documents say he dumped his cell phone and began using encrypted email.
Authorities found him living with several women in a posh gated community in Puerta Vallarta.
“After authorities took him into custody on a U.S. warrant, investigators said that the women got into a high-speed car chase,” CBS reported.
The NXIVM website describes Raniere as a “scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, educator, inventor and author” who has “devoted his life to studying the human psychodynamic and developing new tools for human empowerment, expression and ethics.”
Senior FBI official William Sweeney told BBC News: “Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves. He allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the co-operation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme. These serious crimes against humanity are not only shocking, but disconcerting to say the least, and we are putting an end to this torture today.”