THE leader of a sick cult has today been found guilty of forcing his followers into becoming sex slaves and branding them with his initials.
Keith Raniere, 58, faces life in prison after being convicted of running the Nxivm group where women were starved and forced into orgies.
He was found guilty of sex trafficking, forced labour conspiracy, racketeering, wire fraud conspiracy, possession of child pornography and other crimes.
A jury in federal court in Brooklyn took less than five hours to find Raniere guilty on all counts, prompting ex-Nxivm members to burst into applause.
Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose daughter India was branded after being lured into the group, hailed the verdict.
“F*** him. He’s done. F***ing a**hole,” Oxenberg said outside court.
“This was a very frightening group.
“I had to save a child who was caught in the grips of this cult, so I wasn’t going to stop until I succeeded.”
Raniere, 58, once had an international following with a foothold in Hollywood with dangerous cult, which was masquerading as a self-help group.
His followers included Smallville actress Allison Mack who allegedly rose through the ranks to become a “master” to other slaves.
Seagram’s liquor fortune heiress Clare Bronfman was also charged and accepted a plea deal in relation to her role in the cult.
“Raniere was truly a modern-day Svengali,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said outside court.
He called the cult leader a lying manipulator who “ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives.”
Raniere showed no reaction as he learned the verdict.
His lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said Raniere plans to appeal.
“Keith maintains his innocence. It’s a very sad day for him,” Agnifilo said. “I think he’s not surprised, but he maintains that he didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”
The court heard how he founded Nxivm, a purported self-improvement organisation based in upstate New York.
Prosecutors said that he created a secret sorority within Nxivm called DOS in which female “slaves” turned over compromising materials, such as nude photos, that could be used for blackmail.
They were told that the material would be released if they disobeyed orders or tried to leave, according to a former member and other witnesses.
DOS was sold to recruits as an all-female organization, when in fact it was controlled by Raniere, according to former members who testified at the trial.
Raniere was the “grandmaster” of an inner circle of slaves, who in turn recruited slaves of their own.
Some of those recruits were coerced into having sex with Raniere, and some were branded with his initials, according to former members.
“The trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact a master manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involving sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion, compelled abortion, branding, degradation and humiliation,” Mr Donoghue said.
Prosecutors also said that, years before creating DOS, Raniere began a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
The child pornography charges stem from explicit pictures he took of the girl, who went on to become one of his inner circle of DOS slaves.
Agnifilo, had told jurors in his closing arguments on Monday that no women were ever forced to do anything against their will.
Other members of Nxivm, which is pronounced “nexium,” were charged alongside Raniere, and have all pleaded guilty.
They include Nxivm president Nancy Salzman, her daughter, Lauren Salzman, who testified as the prosecution’s star witness, Mack and Bronfman.
The group first became known for its “Executive Success Program” courses, which purported to give students the ability to achieve their life goals by overcoming mental blocks.
Witnesses testified that leaders of the organisation psychologically manipulated and abused its members and demanded total obedience.
Among the more damning allegations against Raniere were that he had some women branded with his initials.
One of the victims, whose names were withheld to protect her privacy, described being confined to a bedroom for more than 700 days on orders from Raniere.
She described how this was a punishment for showing interest in another man.
Another explained how Raniere lured her to a home when she was blind-folded and bound to a table so that another woman could perform a sex act on her.
Raniere’s sentencing is set for September 25.