NXIVM cult leader, Keith Raniere‘s trial got off to a jaw-dropping start on May 7 when he was accused of making a 15-year-old girl from Mexico his first “slave” after convincing her and her three sisters to travel with him to New York with the promise of tutoring them, according to Rolling Stone. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Hajjar was the one who laid out the disturbing claims about 58-year-old Raniere in the Brooklyn courtroom and she didn’t hold back. In addition to accusing Raniere of having sex with the young Mexican national, (this could lead to him being charged with statutory rape under New York law) who she said he called “Virgin Camilla”, Hajjar claimed he also made the young girl take nude photographs for him, the New York Times reported.
“The defendant said he was a mentor, but he was a predator [who] pretended to be a guru,” Hajjar said when speaking about about how Raniere lured his first alleged victims, and many more after that, to him, the NYT reports. As per the NYT, she went on to say that Raniere, who co-founded alleged sex cult NXIVM in Albany in the 1990s and promoted it as a self-help organization, wanted to run the group as a way to gain power over unsuspecting women. She said some were even coerced into branding his initials on themselves and giving him sensitive information such as the details to their bank accounts and some of their “deepest, darkest secrets.”
The NYT reports that Hajjar continued her words against Raniere by mentioning the steps the government was going to take to properly present evidence against him. She explained that they would look into pictures (including the number of pics of nude women found on his computer), email messages, and video recordings. She also said they will hear testimony from former NXIVM members who had committed “serious crimes” with Raniere. “This was organized crime, and Keith Raniere was the crime boss in the community,” Hajjar said “He was untouchable.”
Raniere and his lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, are fighting against Hajjar’s claims by insisting that Raniere was only trying to help his followers reach personal goals and never made them do anything they weren’t okay with. Agnifilo mentioned to jurors that they may indeed see videos of women being branded in court and advised them to pay attention to how they’re reacting. “See if the women seemed forced or if they are doing it because they want to do it,” he said.
Raniere was indicted and charged with racketeering conspiracy, identity theft, extortion, forced labor, money laundering, wire fraud and sex trafficking. In the past few weeks, five women, who were charged as his co-defendants, pleaded guilty to various charges, leaving him to fight his case on his own.
One of Raniere’s many followers included actress Allison Mack, who made major headlines in Apr. 2018 for allegedly helping Raniere lure women into the cult’s secret society, D.O.S., where they were allegedly branded and coerced into having sex with him. Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering charges on Apr. 8, 2019.