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The Vow: NXIVM Cult Complete Timeline of Crimes

The Vow: A Complete Timeline of the NXIVM Cult's Disturbing Activities and Collapse

ALBANY, NY - APRIL 26: The NXIVM Executive Success Programs sign outside of the office at 455 New Karner Road on April 26, 2018 in Albany, New York. Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM, was arrested by the FBI in Mexico in March of 2018. (Photo by Amy Luke/Getty Images)

HBO's true-crime docuseries The Vow takes on the unsavoury case of NXIVM, a multi-level marketing company that, on the surface, promoted personal development classes. While galvanising the idea of self-help, NXIVM has become associated with a disturbing sex cult and pyramid scheme in recent years. At the centre of NXIVM's chaos is its leader Keith Raniere, an alleged genius who, with a cadre of top associates, preyed on women. Not long ago, NXIVM members faced multiple charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. To complement your viewing of the HBO documentary, airing on Fox Showcase from Sep. 20, read ahead for a timeline that gives a detailed look at the events that mark NXIVM's rise and fall.

ALBANY, NY - APRIL 26: The exterior of the NXIVM Executive Success Programs office at 455 New Karner Road on April 26, 2018 in Albany, New York. Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM, was arrested by the FBI in Mexico in March of 2018. (Photo by Amy Luke/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 12:  Actress Allison Mack exits the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York following a status conference, June 12, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Mack was charged in April with sex trafficking for her involvement with a self-help organisation for women that forced members into sexual acts with their leader. The group, called Nxivm, was led by founder Keith Raniere, who was arrested in March on sex-trafficking charges. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

  • May 2018: Mack claims that she started the branding ritual. In an interview with The New York Times, Mack said that she came up with the idea for branding women in the DOS initiation process, comparing it to getting a tattoo. She touted DOS as a sort of women's empowerment sect.
  • June 2018: NXIVM suspends its operations. The message on the company site (now defunct) read: "While we are disappointed by the interruption of our operations, we believe it is warranted by the extraordinary circumstances facing the company at this time. We continue to believe in the value and importance of our work and look forward to resuming our efforts when these allegations are resolved."
  • July 2018: Authorities arrest four of Raniere's accomplices, who are charged with racketeering conspiracy in NXIVM. Among the arrested included heiress Clare Bronfman, cofounder Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, and former NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell. They are accused of recruiting and grooming women to have sex with Raniere.
  • March 2019: Raniere faces child pornography charges. Prosecutors said that his first "slave" was a 15-year-old girl. They also accused him of possessing child pornography between 2005 and 2018. The same month, Nancy Salzman and her daughter pleaded guilty to their charges.
  • April 2019: Mack pleads guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. The same month, Bronfman pleaded guilty to harboring an undocumented immigrant for NXIVM and to enabling credit card fraud. Russell, too, pleaded guilty to falsifying a visa application for a person associated with NXIVM.
  • June 2019: Raniere is found guilty of sex-trafficking and forced labour charges. After a nearly six-week trial, Raniere was convicted for sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, racketeering, and conspiracy to commit forced labour. He is to be sentenced in Oct. 2020.
  • January 2020: NXIVM faces a lawsuit. Plaintiffs (some 80 individuals) alleged that they were lured in by false scientific claims and paid thousands of dollars for classes, becoming victims of a pyramid scheme. They also cited the emotional and verbal abuse that made them stay in NXIVM. While the company promised that they could have careers within it, very few top members made money. The rest were pressured into recruiting students while spending their savings on personal development classes.
Image Source: Getty / Amy Luke / Drew Angerer
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