New York [USA]: Prosecutors in New York on Wednesday found the leader of an alleged “sex cult,” Keith Raniere, guilty on seven charges including sex trafficking.
The founder of an American self-help company called NXIVM, Raniere had pleaded not guilty to all the charges which are racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, forced labour conspiracy, sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and attempted sex trafficking, according to CNN.
Prosecutors believe that NXIVM secretly housed a sex cult, which women were lured into. During a six-week long testimony at Brooklyn federal court, witnesses told a 16-person jury that they were pressured into having sex with Raniere and were “ceremonially” branded with the founder’s initials in their lower bodies.
Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, called their relationship with him as “consensual” during the proceedings. The secret group in the company was called “DOS” or “The Vow”.
Witnesses have also claimed that they were blackmailed into silence due to damaging personal information with their “masters.”
Prosecutor Moira Penza labelled NXIVM’s founder as a “crime boss” during her closing arguments on Monday. “The defendant tapped into a never-ending flow of women and money. (He was) a crime boss with no limits and no checks on his power,” CNN quoted Penza as saying.
Agnifilo, on the other hand, maintained that no crimes were committed. “You may find him repulsive, disgusting and offensive. We don’t convict people in this country for being repulsive or offensive,” Agnifilo said. “Unpopular ideas aren’t criminal. Disgusting ideas aren’t criminal,” the attorney said.
Raniere is scheduled to be sentenced on September 25 and could be awarded life in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest in Mexico last year.