Keith Raniere, Founder of Cultlike Group, Convicted of Racketeering, Sex Trafficking

This article in the Wall Street Journal brings to a (judicial) conclusion the sad story of a fraudulent business purporting to be a self-improvement organization. Its underlying focus on financial, personal, and sexual manipulation of members is revealed rather quickly, though seemingly is unreported early on. Unfortunately, law enforcement would have likely declined any investigative interest in this organization in the absence of clear criminality, or membership testimony to criminal activity in the early stages (typically categorized as a “civil matter).”

While there is no guarantee that a background check or due diligence investigation would immediately confirm an organizations’s true bona fides, a thorough and detailed investigation, however, conducted by a competent and professional firm like Private Investigation Services Group in Bluffton, SC, would likely produce red flags to it’s clients, and serve an early warning to clients otherwise unsure of the true nature of the organization. In this case, PISG would likely have identified concerns regarding the legitimacy of the organization, and its true ambitions for the new members, and notified both the client and law enforcement contacts.   

This article originally appeared at The Wall Street Journal on June 19th, 2019.

The founder of a purported self-help group in upstate New York was convicted Wednesday of federal racketeering and sex-trafficking charges after a trial in which prosecutors described wide-ranging abuse and sexual exploitation of women.

After six weeks of witness testimony, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Keith Raniere, 58 years old, of all counts on its first day of deliberations. Mr. Raniere founded a group called Nxivm, which claimed to offer self-improvement seminars. Prosecutors said the group, based in an Albany suburb, operated like a criminal enterprise and manipulated women through sex and threats to release damaging information.

“The closed doors of these cookie-cutter homes had seemed straight out of a horror movie, but for the defendant’s victims this was all too real,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza told the jury. “Sex trafficking, child exploitation, forced labor and so many more crimes.”

Ms. Penza said that for 15 years, Mr. Raniere committed federal crimes with the help of his inner circle, which included his many sexual partners. One Nxivm subgroup, prosecutors said, functioned like a pyramid, with women designated as “slaves” commanding other “slaves” in the levels below them.

Mr. Raniere didn’t testify during the trial, and his lawyers didn’t call any witnesses. During the trial, lawyer Marc Agnifilo said that while some of the conduct might seem distasteful, the women freely chose to participate in sex acts and weren’t forced by Mr. Raniere.

He also said some witnesses weren’t reliable, and that Mr. Raniere didn’t direct some actions that prosecutors said were crimes. “Why is all of this Keith’s fault?” Mr. Agnifilo said.

Other Nxivm members were also charged as a result of federal authorities’ probe of the group, but Mr. Raniere stood trial alone. Several members of the group, including “Smallville” actress Allison Mack and Seagram Co. heiress Clare Bronfman, among others, pleaded guilty to lesser charges before Mr. Raniere’s trial began.

Mr. Raniere faces up to life in prison. His lawyer, Mr. Agnifilo, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict.

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