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Former members of an inner, secret sex cult of NXIVM once branded themselves with the initials of their leader Keith Raniere as a permanent sign of their devotion to the group.
But the unrepentant former leader has now been ordered to pay millions to help his victims remove those scars as part of a new restitution order.
Raniere—who is currently serving a 120-year sentence in an Arizona federal prison—was ordered by a federal judge Tuesday to pay $3.5 million to a total of 21 victims for expenses such as medical services, the value of unpaid labor they gave to the group and the cost of legal fees, according to The New York Times.
The restitution also provides the women with money to cover the surgical cost of removing the brands seared into their skin in a series of disturbing rituals carried out by members of a secret society within NXIVM known as D.O.S.
Former members would later describe being forced to lay down, naked, as other women pinned them to a table and branded them with a cauterizing pen.
Each woman was told to recite the words “Master, please brand me, it would be an honor,” before the symbol, containing Raniere’s initials, was burned into their flesh, according to The Times.
The largest amount of restitution was awarded to a woman referred to in court as Camila, who ws just 15 years old when she said Raniere began sexually abusing her and encouraged her to participate in pornographic photography sessions. She was awarded a total of $507,997, according to the paper.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis also ordered Raniere—who appeared via video from an Arizona prison Tuesday—to return so-called “collateral” he had collected from the women, including nude photographs, to his victims. The women had provided the damaging information to gain entry and remain a part of D.O.S., which was built using a structure that required “slaves” to obey and report to their given “master.”
Raniere, however, seemed to be thrown in court by the judge’s order.
“I have never handled collateral,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t know anything about it.”
He later added that he didn’t “know who the victims are.”
The contentious hearing included another bizarre stand off at one point with Raniere’s attorney Marc Fernich and Garaufis that included a half an hour of silence in the courtroom, according to The New York Post.
Fernich had been upset that the judge had denied his request to delay the hearing so he could attend the funeral of a friend, telling the judge at one point that he lacked “human decency.”
Garaufis then grabbed a box of tissues near him and gestured for a court clerk, saying “Give him this to go cry.”
Garaufis ordered Fernich to sit back down, which he did, but he also delivered one more remark, “You can stare at me all you want, Your Honor, all you want.”
The comment triggered a half-hour of silence before Fernich publicly apologized in court.
“I apologize for disrespecting the court’s institutional authority,” he said. “It’s been an emotional time for me.”
Raniere was sentenced to 120 years behind bars last year after his 2019 conviction for sex trafficking, racketeering, child pornography, forced labor, identity theft and obstruction of justice.
At the time, he refused to apologize for his actions and maintained he had not been responsible for the allegations against him.
“I do believe I am innocent of the charges,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “It is true I am not remorseful of the crimes I do not believe I committed at all.”
Just last month, ‘Smallville’ actress Allison Mack—who had once been a high-ranking member of the group—was sentenced to three years in federal prison for her role in the organization’s illicit activities.
Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, who helped bankroll many of the group’s expenses, is also behind bars after being sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit identity theft.
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