NEW YORK — Self-improvement businessman Keith Raniere, whose following in the alleged sex cult NXIVM included Hollywood stars and millionaires, was sentenced to 120 years in prison on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, in sentencing in a Brooklyn federal court, called Raniere “ruthless and unyielding” in crimes that were “particularly egregious” because he targeted girls and young women, The New York Times reported.
The 60-year-old was also fined $1,750,000, the Albany Times-Union reported.
Several victims of the sex-trafficking conspiracy spoke before the sentencing, and Raniere also spoke, maintaining his innocence, the Times reported.
“I still hear his voice in my head, and it continues to be a daily struggle,” said one woman, now 30, in the first of 15 victim statements offered.
“I do believe I am innocent of the charges," Raniere told the court. “It is true I am not remorseful of the crimes I do not believe I committed at all.”
However, Raniere later said he was “deeply sorry,” adding that he did not mean to cause so much pain and anger, the Times reported.
“Where I am is caused by me,” Raniere said. “This is all my doing.”
Raniere asked the judge not to blame his co-defendants, NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, Seagrams heiress Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman, and former actress Allison Mack, calling them “good souls," the Times-Union reported. He also said he knows Mack cooperated with the prosecution.
Bronfman was sentenced by a federal judge to 81 months in prison earlier this month.
The company charged thousands of dollars for invitation-only self-improvement courses in Albany, New York, along with branches in Mexico and Vancouver, Canada, according to The Associated Press. Participants were willing to endure humiliation and pledge obedience to the defendant as part of his teachings.
NXIVM has been the subject of two TV documentary series this year: "The Vow,” on HBO, and the Starz series “Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.”
The first victim to speak was a woman named Camila, the Times reported. She said that Raniere began to sexually abuse her 15 years ago, when she was 15.
“I want to move on, but he has damaged me in so many ways,” the woman said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said he hopes the sentence will deter aspiring cult leaders, NBC News reported.
“When justice catches up to you, as it did today, it is severe,” DuCharme told reporters. “Keith Raniere will not be able to victimize people anymore after today’s sentence and we’re very grateful for that.”
Cox Media Group