Updated: June 17, 2019 / 6:09 a.m.
A New York sex cult who was run by a leader that is accused of holding a woman hostage and having the women branded with his initials carried out his crimes in an upstate subdivision that hid a “horror movie” reality, a federal prosecutor stated on Monday.
Keith Raniere, 58, is currently on trial and facing charges that include racketeering, sex trafficking, and child pornography. Prosecutors claim he used his organization called Nxivm, in which he billed itself as a self-help group, to hide a secretive sorority where young women were forced into sex through blackmail and ordered to follow dangerously restrictive diets.
“The closed doors of these cookie cutter houses may seem straight out of a horror movie, but for the defendant’s victims, it was all too real,” Moira Penza, the Assistant U.S. Attorney said as she presented pictures of Clifton Park, New York, a neighborhood where the Nxivm cult operated. Penza displayed photos of various houses where witnesses claim that Raniere sexually assaulted a female Nxivm member, where another woman was branded with his initials and a young woman, Daniela, was confined in a room for nearly two years, threatened of being sent back to Mexico without her family.
Raniere has pleaded not guilty and could potentially face life in prison if convicted. His defense attorneys will begin their closing arguments later Monday in a federal courthouse in New York’s Brooklyn borough.