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Sex cult leader Keith Raniere convicted on 7 charges

By Danielle Haynes

June 19 (UPI) -- A New York jury on Wednesday found the leader of a purported self-help group guilty on seven charges associated with a scheme to force women into a sexual slavery cult.

Keith Raniere, 58, was convicted on one count each of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking.

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He faces life in prison at a sentencing hearing Sept. 25.

"Keith Raniere's crime spree has ended and his victims will finally see justice," U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said.

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"This trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact a massive manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involved in sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion, compelled abortions, branding, degradation and humiliation," he added.

Raniere was the founder of Nxivm, an Albany, N.Y.-based self-help group that claimed to "empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human." But prosecutors said the group was a cover for his real motive, which was to create a secret group of women -- called DOS -- with whom he had sex and branded with his initials. He brainwashed and coerced them into cooperating by threatening to reveal highly personal information.

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During the six-week trial, members of the group testified they were pressured to have sex with Raniere and blackmailed to remain silent.

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Raniere's lawyers said his actions with the women, while unconventional, were consensual and legal.

"You may find him repulsive, disgusting and offensive," Marc Agnifilo told the jury. "We don't convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive. Unpopular ideas aren't criminal. Disgusting ideas aren't criminal."

The investigation into Raniere's actions resulted in the arrest of a number of alleged co-conspirators, including actor Allison Mack. She pleaded guilty in April to racketeering charges for her role as a high-ranking member of Nxivm.

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Prosecutors said Mack reported directly to Raniere, recruiting women to join the secret DOS group that were brought to him for sex and required to follow strict diets to adhere to his preferred body type.

"His crimes and the crimes of his co-conspirators ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives," Donoghue said.

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