Keith Raniere, leader of the alleged sex cult NXIVM, was charged with creating and possessing child pornography by federal prosecutors on Wednesday. This is just the latest news about the disgraced "professional development group," which operated as a multi-level marketing scheme selling self-help workshops.
Raniere, who was known as "Vanguard" within the organization, would allegedly treat women members of NXIVM like sex slaves, branding their bodies with his initials, and forcing them to have sex with him. Raniere already faces charges for sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy.
In the latest charges, according to NBC News, Raniere had a relationship with two underage girls. Federal prosecutors found photos of one of the girls, a 15-year-old, "constituting child pornography" as well as electronic communication between the two that states she was underage, according to court papers. His lawyer disputed the charges, arguing that they were brought up in the "eleventh hour" ahead of Raniere’s trial, which is scheduled for next month.
Earlier on Wednesday, Nancy Salzman, NXIVM’s co-founder who was referred to as "Prefect" by members, plead guilty to one count of racketeering, according to NBC News. She admitted to stealing email passwords of people who were against the group, as well as altering video evidence used in a lawsuit against Rick Ross, according to the New York Times.
"I did things I knew were wrong and justified it was for the greater good," Salzman said during Wednesday's hearing, according to NBC News. "Some of what I did was not just wrong but criminal. If I could do it all over, I would, but I cannot." Salzman's daughter, Lauren, allegedly was also part of the group and branding ceremonies.
Other prominent people implicated in the alleged sex cult include Smallville actress Allison Mack, who faces 15 years in prison for sex trafficking, and reportedly was responsible for recruiting members. Claire Bronfman, a philanthropist and heiress, was also arrested in July for racketeering conspiracy.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).