Stars like ‘Smallville’ actress Allison Mack were recruited into this alleged sex cult that blackmailed women into silence. Learn more about the man who founded NXIVM.
Keith Raniere, 59, is best known as the founder of NXIVM, which dubbed itself a “self-help group” for women. Originally started in 1998 out of New York City, the organization positioned itself as a multi-level marketing company offering development seminars — but behind closed doors, operated as an alleged sex cult. Over the years, the organization recruited various high profile women, including Smallville star Allison Mack, 38, who has since plead guilty in a racketeering conspiracy and racketeering for her own alleged involvement in assisting to run a “slave ring.” Learn more about Keith, who is the subject of HBO’s new nine-episode documentary series The Vow.
1. He founded NXIVM. Keith “created a secret society of women with whom he had sex and had branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets,” United States Attorney Richard Donoghue alleged in a statement in Mar. 2018. Online, the organization used terms like “professional coaching company” to describe itself, claiming it offered a series of “Executive Success Programs” and “seminars” in various places, including United States, Canada and Mexico.
2. He was arrested, charged and found guilty. Keith was arrested in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in Mar. 2018 for charges including conspiracy to commit forced labor and conspiracy for sex trafficking. He was found guilty of charges sexual exploitation of a child, identity theft, trafficking for labor, and sex trafficking on June 19, 2019. “Over the last seven weeks, this trial has revealed that Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact a massive manipulator, a con man and the crime boss of a cult-like organization involving sex trafficking, child pornography, extortion compelled abortions, branding, degradation, and humiliation,” Richard Donoghue said to press outside of the court room in June 2019. “The evidence proved that Raniere was truly a modern-day Svengali,” he also said.
3. His prison sentencing was delayed. Keith — known as “Vanguard” in NXIVM — was most recently scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020, and faced up to a maximum time of life in prison, with a minimum sentence of 15 years. The sentencing was indefinitely delayed after Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis said a pre-sentencing report that recommended a sentence was not yet ready. The date was previously pushed from Sept. 2019, the NY Post reported, and a new one hasn’t been set.
4. He’s from New York. Keith was born in Brooklyn, New York on Aug. 26, 1960 to an advertising executive and dance teacher. He attended the Waldorf School, later graduating the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1982, according to CNN.
5. He recruited Allison Mack. Allison, best known for her roles as Chloe Sullivan on Smallville and Amanda on Wilfred, allegedly joined NXIVM in 2010. During her time, she allegedly helped run a slave ring with Keith, and was later charged after pleading guilty one count of racketeering conspiracy, and one count of racketeering. “I have come to the conclusion that I must take full responsibility for my conduct and that’s why I am pleading guilty today,” the actress said on April 8, 2019. “I am very sorry to my family and to the good people I hurt through my misguided adherence to Keith Raniere’s teachings.” Allison originally plead “not guilty,” and her sentencing hearing was also postponed — however, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
The Vow premieres on Sunday, Aug. 23 @ 10 p.m., and will also be streamed on platform HBO Max.