4 from Eastern District honored for takedown of sex-cult leader

Raniere’s groups engaged in racketeering, sex trafficking

July 12, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Two Eastern District of New York assistant United States attorneys, a former Acting United States Attorney, and one paralegal specialist were among the 298 department employees recognized on Tuesday by U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland at the 69th Annual Attorney General’s Awards Ceremony. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tanya Hajjar and Kevin Trowel, former Acting U.S. Attorney Mark J. Lesko, and Paralegal Specialist Teri Carby of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, along with several counterparts in the FBI and Homeland Security, were recognized for their efforts in dismantling a criminal enterprise led by Keith Raniere, whose members engaged in racketeering, sex trafficking and forced labor, among other crimes. 

For more than a decade, Raniere and his co-conspirators led a criminal enterprise under the guise of various self-help organizations headquartered in Albany, N.Y., with centers operating elsewhere in the United States, Mexico and Canada. 

In late 2015, Raniere created a secret society called DOS, whose members were drawn from the self-help organizations. Women were recruited under the false pretense of joining a women-only mentorship group, later discovering that they had taken “vows of obedience” to other women who, in turn, had themselves pledged obedience to Raniere. 

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Prospective DOS victims were required to provide “collateral” to Raniere and his co-conspirators, which included damaging confessions about themselves and their loved ones, whether true or not, rights to financial assets and sexually explicit photographs and videos. 

Former Acting U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko. Photo courtesy of Department of Justice

Collateral was used to coerce victims into providing labor and services, including sex acts with Raniere, for the benefit of Raniere and the criminal enterprise. 

After securing the convictions of Raniere’s five co-defendants through guilty pleas, the team used a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to successfully prepare multiple victims for trial testimony. 

The team employed precedent-setting applications of the RICO, sex trafficking, and labor trafficking statutes to pursue justice for the victims and provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 to ensure victim participation in all aspects of the prosecution. 

After a six-week trial, Raniere was held accountable for over a decade of crime and exploitation that had been concealed behind the guise of various “personal growth” programs. 

In June 2019, Raniere was convicted of racketeering conspiracy; racketeering involving predicate acts of sex trafficking, child exploitation, and obstruction of justice; and substantive offenses including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy

“The groundbreaking work of our Eastern District honorees and law enforcement partners achieved justice for the women victimized by Nxivm’s leader Keith Raniere and his sophisticated associates who carried out their crimes for years, protected by a wall of secrecy, intimidation, and humiliation that the prosecution team ultimately demolished,” said Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, located in Brooklyn.

Nxivm was the trademarked name of a defunct corporation that Raniere founded, which provided seminars and videos, allegedly in the field of human-potential development.

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