New York, June 20: Keith Raniere, the founder of the Nxivm self-help company, accused of leading a sex cult that enslaved women was found guilty of all charges against him.
Raniere, 58, was convicted on Wednesday by a jury after a six-week trial in Brooklyn. Raniere was found guilty on all seven counts, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labour conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking, reported CNN.
He was emotionless as the verdict was read and is due to be sentenced on September 25. When the verdict was read outside court, former members of Nxivm gave the prosecution team a round of applause. Raniere was arrested by the FBI in Mexico last year. His defence team said the alleged sexual relationships were consensual and they plan to appeal the case.
During six weeks of testimony in Brooklyn federal court, group members told the jury that they were pressured to have sex with Raniere, and were ceremonially branded near their bikini lines - only to realize later that their skin had been marked with Raniere's initials.
The guilty verdict will mark a remarkable fall for Raniere, who created Nxivm in 2003. The self-help group provided classes to nearly 17,000 people, including prominent figures like "Smallville" actress Allison Mack and Seagram's liquor heiress Clare Bronfman.
But within Nxivm, Raniere also ran a secret group known as "DOS" or "The Vow" that functioned like a cult with Raniere at its head. Mack and Bronfman, who were both part of the inner DOS group, pleaded guilty in April to various charges to avoid trial. Witnesses in court testified that they were blackmailed into silence after being asked to turn damaging personal information over to their "masters."
"The defendant tapped into a never-ending flow of women and money .He was a crime boss with no limits and no checks on his power', prosecutor Moira Penza told jurors in closing arguments on Monday.
Meanwhile, Defense attorney Marc Agnifilo argued that no crimes were committed. "You may find him repulsive, disgusting and offensive. We don't convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive. Unpopular ideas aren't criminal. Disgusting ideas aren't criminal', Agnifilo said.