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NXIVM suspends all operations amid criminal probe


In this April 13, 2018 courtroom sketch Keith Raniere, second from right, leader of the secretive group NXIVM, attends a court hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Lawyers for the jailed founder of the purported self-help group say he's being persecuted by the government's "morality police." The accusation was made in court papers filed late Tuesday, June 5 seeking Raniere's release on $10 million bond. © Elizabeth Williams via AP, File

By Steve Hughes, Albany Times Union

As its founder headed to federal court for a bail hearing in his sex-trafficking case, NXIVM announced it was suspending all operations and planned events.

"While we are disappointed by the interruption of our operations, we believe it is warranted by the extraordinary circumstances facing the company at this time. We continue to believe in the value and importance of our work and look forward to resuming our efforts when these allegations are resolved," a message on the Colonie-based organization's website said .

The announcement came shortly before NXIVM founder Keith Raniere and his alleged co-conspirator, television actress Allison Mack, were scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to press his case for bail. Raniere, 57, whose organization has been described by experts as a cult, was arrested in late March at a luxury beach villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, along the Pacific Ocean. In Mexico, authorities said, Raniere got rid of his mobile phone and used encrypted email to communicate with his followers. It took authorities nearly two months to locate and arrest him.

NXIVM, also known as Executive Success Programs, says its offers courses in human developement.

Federal prosecutors cite Raniere's "decades' long history of abusing women and girls." He faces charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor. He has been held in custody since he was deported from Mexico on March 25 and taken into custody by federal law enforcement officials in Texas.

Last week, Raniere's lawyers they filed a request seeking his release on a $10 million bond, arguing he is not a flight risk and offering to have him live in a residence secured by armed private security guards while his criminal case is pending. In the filing, Raniere's attorneys referred to the U.S. Justice Department as the "morality police" and accused them of wrongly implicating Raniere in sex trafficking.

Actress Allison Mack leaves U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York after a bail hearing, April 24, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images

But the U.S. Attorney on Friday asked a judge to reject the request, unveiling text messages the Justice Department said show Raniere was directly involved in recruiting women to be his sex slaves and having them branded with a "monogram" that included his initials.

In a federal indictment unsealed April 20, Raniere and Mack — a longtime NXIVM member and close associate of Raniere's — were accused of organizing the secret group within NXIVM in which some of its female members said they felt coerced into joining a slave-master club, and later branded with a design that included the initials of Raniere and Mack.

The women in the group, according to federal court records, were lured into the club by other female NXIVM members, including Mack, who considered Raniere her "grand master," and were required to provide "collateral" in order to join. If they tried to leave, they were threatened that their collateral — sometimes damaging information about family members or close-up photographs of their genitalia — would be released.

The government alleges that some of the women felt coerced into having sex with Raniere due to the threat of having the damaging information about them released if they tried to leave the group or failed to follow orders.

The motion by Raniere argues that many woman who joined the secret group did not have sex with him and were not branded. Also, his attorneys argued, the women who were branded were never held down against their will. Some have said they were held down by other female members to help them get through the grueling and painful branding, which was done by a female osteopath, Danielle Roberts, associated with NXIVM.


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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: NXIVM suspends all operations amid criminal probe
NXIVM suspends all operations amid criminal probe
U.S. - U.S. Daily News
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