The leaders of New York-based organization NXIVM (aka "Nexium"), a cult disguised as a mentoring group, are facing decades in prison for racketeering and child pornography, Fox News reported Thursday.
Keith Raniere, 58, who is already involved in a case alleging he coerced women into being sex slaves, complete with branding them with his initials below the waist, has also been charged with child pornography after inappropriate images of a 15-year-old were unearthed, the court documents say. They also say there is evidence that Raniere had been messaging with the minor, and that the messages suggest a sexual relationship.
Raniere was charged mere hours after another cult leader, Nancy Salzman, 65, pleaded guilty to stealing critics' email addresses and tampering with evidence. She is to be sentenced on 10 July on charges of racketeering, NBC reports. She will face a total of 33 to 41 years in prison.
Raniere and Salzman face prosecution along with "Smallville" actress Allison Mack and Clare Bronfman, daughter of billionaire philanthropist and former chair of Seagram, the Quebec-based liquor giant.
NXIVM was a sex-trafficking ring that sought to disguise itself as a psychological consultancy, the prosecutors say. Designed as a financial pyramid, it rendered its members financially vulnerable by forcing them to pay thousands of dollars for "development courses" that left them deeply in debt. Members who successfully recruited new slaves were reportedly rewarded with money and elevations in status.