Federal authorities on Tuesday raided an upstate New York residence connected to a secretive group accused of coercing female followers into having sex with its leader and getting branded with his initials.
The raid of the home of NXIVM president Nancy Salzman came on the day the group’s longtime leader, Keith Raniere, appeared in federal court in Texas.
A second upstate location also was searched Tuesday, but authorities declined to discuss what they were looking for in either operation. They said no other people have been taken into custody in connection with the ongoing investigation of a purported self-help group that critics have likened to a cult.
Raniere had been detained earlier this week on charges of U.S. sex trafficking and forced labour in Mexico, where authorities allege he was hiding out in a luxury villa in the company of several women followers. He waived his right to an identification hearing in Texas and is to be transferred to New York in the next two weeks.
Raniere left the United States last year after The New York Times reported some women who joined a secret sorority within his Albany-based group were branded with a symbol that included his initials.
The women told investigators they were subjected to “master-slave” conditions in which they were emotionally and physically tormented. NXIVM has called the women’s complaints “lies.”
The case against the 57-year-old Raniere is being prosecuted in federal court in Brooklyn. It’s unclear when he would make his first appearance there.
Raniere and NXIVM have been the subject of criticism for years, dating to at least 2012, when Albany’s Times Union published a series of articles examining the organization and allegations it was like a cult.