A federal judge ruled that 21 people should receive a total of $3.46 million in restitution from Keith Raniere, the founder of Nxivm, for being victims of his racketeering, sex trafficking and forced labor crimes.
Raniere, who appeared at the hearing by video feed from a federal facility in Arizona where he is serving some of his 120-year sentence, was convicted of charges including racketeering in 2019.
He wore a white mask and dark green prison uniform as he told the court that he had not yet seen the government’s submission for Tuesday’s restitution hearing, partly because of restrictions related to the documents, and partly because he hired a new legal team.
“I don’t know who the victims are. I don’t know what they are asking,” Raniere said.
Raniere is accused of creating, within the self-help company Nxivm, a secret all-female group known as DOS, whose members served as “slaves” and “masters.”
Unbeknownst to many of the women in the group, Raniere was the leader of the group and often directed women to have sex with him or send him sexually explicit photos of themselves. Some of the women were forced to be branded with his initials on their pelvic regions, witnesses testified at his trial. Many of the women were expected to be on call at all hours, asked to complete tasks or take part in “readiness drills.”
Women in DOS were at first told the group was a women’s empowerment group, were urged to give compromising information about themselves in order to guarantee their secrecy, known as “collateral,” which ranged from sexually explicit photos of themselves to letters where they make false and damaging statements about loved ones.
As part of the restitution decision, US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who presided over Raniere’s trial, ordered during the tense restitution hearing Tuesday that Raniere return the “collateral” that he still controlled or has access to, once he has exhausted his appeals.
Raniere said at the hearing that he has “never handled the collateral.”
Garaufis said more than 100 victims of Raniere’s had submitted claims seeking about $133 million, but that he narrowed the scope of the restitution payments to 17 victims for a total of about $3.46 million, which he ordered Raniere to pay immediately.
The judge awarded money to victims, many of whom were involved in DOS or part of the sex trafficking and human trafficking charges Raniere was convicted of. Many of the victims’ identities were not revealed, as they were also mentioned in trial with pseudonyms.
Garaufis ordered that victims who were branded receive about $2,500 for costs associated with removing their brands, and he ordered many of the victims to receive restitution payments to cover the costs of past and future mental health services, saying Raniere was a “predominant inflictor of psychological torture.”
The victim who received the highest amount of restitution was the girl at the center of child pornography charges that Raniere was convicted of.
Prosecutors said the girl was 15 when Raniere began having a sexual relationship with her, and coerced her to submit sexually explicit photographs when she was a minor. She was ordered to receive more than $500,000, which includes money to have her brand removed, for uncompensated labor and expenses related to the case.
The New York Times reported in 2019 that Raniere spoke before the court at his sentencing, maintaining his innocence and saying some of the victims were lying but also saying he was “deeply sorry.”
“Where I am is caused by me,” Raniere said, according to The New York Times. “This is all my doing.”