Keith Raneire’s “company” secrets swelled to the surface after it was caught in the cross currents of women empowerment and a heighted focus on human and sex trafficking inside U.S. borders.
Raneire purportedly founded NVIXM as a self-help program in Albany, New York, but after seven weeks in front of a jury – and only five hours of deliberation – jurors determined the program was a criminal organization.
It can reasonably be asserted that these kinds of programs can sometimes develop “cult followings” and can entice otherwise normal individuals into doing out-of-the-ordinary things.
However, consent to participate, even to the most outlandish acts, are normally not considered criminal activity. What, then, compelled federal prosecutors to target the founder of NVIXM for criminal prosecution?
The Background on NVIXM
On its surface, NVIXM (pronounced “nexium”) is a multi-level marketing scheme, with a secondary layer that serves as a self-empowerment platform.
Former participants, however, testified about an even deeper layer of the organization – a sex cult complete with master/slave role playing and actual physical branding, the kind of branding done to cattle.
Experts testifying at the federal trial compared founder Keith Raneire to L. Ron Hubbard and his Scientology creation (without the aliens).
Despite being the target of plenty of high-profile (and seemingly credible) accusations and scandal, though, Scientology is in its 67th year, and frankly, seems to be going nowhere.
So, what made NVIXM different in the eyes of the sitting jury?
DOS was not your average social group.
It is than likely that “DOS” – the inner-circle of women within NXIVM – was considered by the jury to be too out of the ordinary to be legitimate. The meaning of this acronym is still not clear.
Some sources say it refers to the Latin phrase “dominus-servus” which translates to “master-slave.” Raneire, however, said it was designed to be nothing more than a social group run by women for women.
Prosecutors disagreed. They charged that he created it as a secretive sex cult only styled as a women’s empowerment group but revealed in court as “The Vow.” This is where the case took its turn, because testimony said The Vow involved trafficking women for sex and labor, and cauterized branding to prove it.
Quite a bit darker, than a multi-level marketing scheme or a self-help social group.
Besides in-court testimony, there were a number of outside events which corroborated the charges against Raneire. While these things have no bearing on the case, the court of public opinion certainly strengthened the case against him.
Seven of his “first-line” sex slaves were present when federal agents stormed his Puerto Vallarta residence for the arrest.
The women charged alongside Keith Raneire all pleaded guilty to their individual charges, including “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, who now faces 40 years in prison.
What did the culmination of these events likely help lead to?
A Guilty Verdict for Keith Raneire
Ultimately, the evidence led to a guilty verdict for Keith Raneire. According to testimony, abuse included starving and branding women with his initials and forcing them to sleep with him or perform other sex acts. One victim was 15 years old at the time she was abused.
While Raneire’s lawyers maintained no crime took place, the jury didn’t buy it. In closing arguments, prosecutors asked for conviction on all counts, and they got it.
The other six counts Raneire was convicted for were:
- Racketeering conspiracy
- Sex trafficking
- Sex trafficking conspiracy
- Attempted sex trafficking
- Forced labor conspiracy
- Wire fraud conspiracy
Some of the most damning evidence included the branding testimony and photos of various homes prosecutors said hosted activities, including sexual assault by Raneire’s then-grown child pornography victim, Camila, at Raneire’s direction.
“The closed doors of these cookie-cutter homes could seem straight out of a horror movie…but for the defendant’s victims, they were all too real.”
Raneire is currently slotted for sentencing in the fall, and could stand to face a life term.