Keith Raniere, a man dubbed a criminal mastermind, faces life in prison.
Raniere, the co-founder of NXIVM, was sentenced Tuesday to 120 years in prison.
He was found guilty in June 2019 of charges including sex trafficking, racketeering, and forced labor conspiracy. The racketeering charge includes underlying acts of sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography.
This is a moment Toni Natalie has waited for. She’s been to every one of Raniere’s hearings, the trial, and now sentencing. Natalie was able to finally address her ex-boyfriend for the first time in years.
"The victims were all amazing they were incredible. Each and every one of their stories were, it was heartbreaking. It shouldn’t have happened," she said.
Including Natalie, 15 people gave victim impact statements. That includes a woman Raniere had sex with when she was 15, her sister who he kept confined to a Clifton Park room for two years, and their brother and mom.
Former members of DOS spoke about moving on from being branded and sexually abused. The common theme: Keith Raniere will not define them.
"It is our sincere hope that today’s sentence does deliver some measure of justice for those victims," said Seth DuCharme, acting United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Victims like Barbara Bouchey and Susan Dones have been here before. Both are part of the NXIVM 9 — a group of women who left the organization long before DOS was created. They battled baseless lawsuit after baseless lawsuit.
"He stalked and terrorized me for a decade. How do you reconcile that in your mind?" said Bouchey.
"I was a mess when I left. Then I had to prepare to defend myself in court," Dones said.
For two decades, Raniere was the leader of NXIVM and Executive Success Programs, headquartered in Colonie. Before that, he ran Consumers’ Buyline from a Clifton Park office. Many of his followers lived in the same neighborhood in Halfmoon.
The federal case against Raniere focused on his time as leader of both NXIVM and the organization’s secret all women’s sorority DOS.
DOS, short for the Latin phrase Dominus Obsequious Sororium, was billed as a women’s empowerment group. In reality, it was run as a pyramid structure made of masters and slaves. Raniere was dubbed the “grandmaster.”
Each of his first line slaves recruited their own slaves, who were encouraged to do the same. To join, women turned over damaging collateral, often naked photographs, which they were told would be released if they broke their lifetime vow to their master.
Only the first line slaves were told of Raniere’s involvement in the group. Some of the women were branded.
“Readiness drills” were common in DOS, requiring members to quickly respond to text messages from their masters. Slaves were told to count their calories and ask for permission before eating. Some were given “assignments” to seduce Raniere. A number of women testified they were sexually abused.
While many NXIVM and DOS members have since left the organization, Raniere still has supporters. Fifty-six letters of support for Raniere were submitted to the court. Many said NXIVM has been beneficial to their lives.
Several letters were written by Mexican citizens who took NXIVM courses, including the father of a woman who testified she was confined to a room in a Halfmoon home for two years before being sent back to Mexico.
She says this was her punishment for expressing a crush and kissing someone other than Raniere. She did not have communication with the outside world, and Salzman, who oversaw the punishment, says this was “the worst thing” she did.
Her father wrote the confinement was because she lied and stole money, saying about Raniere, “When I think of him the words that come to mind are: Honest, Whole, Brilliant Intelligence, always ready to help, Cheerful and In Love with Humanity.”
The man’s youngest daughter, who had sex with Raniere when she was 15-years-old, is expected to deliver a victim impact statement against the NXIVM leader.
Two former DOS members, Nicki Clyne and Michele Hatchette, submitted signed affidavits to the court last week, accusing prosecutors of threatening them against testifying in favor of Raniere. Both women say they would have discussed the benefits of DOS, a group they both say they willingly joined and participated in.
Clyne and Hatchette are members of the recently formed group Make Justice Blind, affiliated with The Forgotten Ones. The group also includes Eduardo Asunsolo, Suneel Chakravorty, and Marc Elliot, all former NXIVM members who also wrote letters of support for Raniere.
The organization accuses federal prosecutors of misconduct during Raniere’s trial. The government denies these allegations.
NXIVM was funded in large part by Clare Bronfman. She spent millions of the Seagrams fortune on the group.
Bronfman was recently sentenced to almost seven years in prison. She pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of identification and conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens.
Raniere’s other co-conspirators, Mack, Salzman, Nancy Salzman, and Kathy Russell all await their sentencings.