Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Fast Forward

Feds Catch Fugitive Sex Slave Cult Leader Backed By Bronfman Heiresses

A cult leader backed by heiresses of a prominent Jewish philanthropic family was arrested by authorities near a Mexican resort on Monday, The Washington Post reported.

Kieth Raniere, who goes by the name “Vanguard,” had claimed to be poor but had been living with multiple women in a villa that cost up to $10,000 a week. Sara and Clare Bronfman, daughters of the late philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, have given millions of their family’s fortune to help fund Raniere’s organization, The New York Times reported last year.

Since 2003, Raniere has been the head of the self-help organization NXIVM (pronounced Nex-e-um). His promise to participants was to introduce “a new ethical understanding” and “self-determination”. Authorities said that he took advantage of his position of power by locking women into having a master-slave relationship with him and coercing the women into sex out of fear.

Members of the group described it as a human bondage pyramid scheme in which each swore loyalty to their “master.” Women provided Raniere with embarrassing information or photos that would be released if they ever tried to leave the group.

“Raniere has maintained a rotating group of fifteen to twenty women with whom he maintains sexual relationships,” the criminal complaint stated. “These women are not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Raniere or to discuss with others their relationship with Raniere. Some of the Nxivm curriculum included teachings about the need for men to have multiple sexual partners and the need for women to be monogamous.”

Authorities also accused Raniere of forcing women to undergo a branding ritual where his initials were allegedly burned into their pubic region with a cauterizing pen.

It is unclear whether Sara or Clare Bronfman underwent any of the bizarre rituals themselves.

Raniere’s arrest was based on eight FBI interviews with alleged victims. He is scheduled to appear in a Texas court on Tuesday on federal sex-trafficking charges.

Contact Haley Cohen at [email protected]

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.