NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A federal judge has denied bail for the founder of a purported self-help group who’s accused of sex-trafficking, branding women with his initials and forcing members to surrender blackmail materials.
Keith Raniere appeared Tuesday in a Brooklyn court seeking his release on a $10 million bond, despite previously claiming he had no financial assets.
The judge sided with prosecutors who argued he could flee with the help of benefactors known to include Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune.
Prosecutors accuse Raniere of forming a barbaric secret society within NXIVM, a group that over the years has attracted a following of minor celebrities and wealthy people.
The prosecutors allege the sub-group branded brainwashed victims with Raniere’s initials during initiation ceremonies that turned them into his sex slaves.
The defense says the women were never abused and willingly let themselves be branded.
NXIVM announced on its website that it has temporarily suspended operations.
In April, authorities filed criminal sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy charges against former “Smallville” star Allison Mack, 35, and group leader Raniere – also known as “Vanguard” – in connection to the NXIVM group, pronounced “Nex-i-um.”
A new complaint filed last month in United States District Court seeks to foreclose on two properties in the Town of Halfmoon in upstate New York, about 15 miles from the NXIVM group’s headquarters in Albany.