In the 21st century, combining a brainwashing sex cult with a Ponzi-scheme-esque multilevel marketing company makes perfect sense. The Times Union reports:
In a Saratoga County townhouse complex, a man who wears a Jesus beard and seeks to patent his philosophies keeps a cluster of adoring women at his side. He has drawn more than 10,000 people to his mission of ethical living. But some disciples say he has delivered a much darker reality.
Keith Raniere, a multilevel-marketing businessman turned self-improvement guru, has peddled himself as a spiritual being to followers, most of them women. A close-knit group of these women has tended to him, paid his bills and shuttled him around. Several have satisfied his sexual needs. And a few have left their families behind to wrap him in their affections.
Claiming one of the world’s highest IQs and holding three degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Raniere has evolved over the past two decades from the fresh-faced founder of Consumers’ Buyline Inc., a buying club business investigated for being a pyramid scheme, into the 51-year-old intellectual commander of NXIVM, a Colonie-based company promising followers from Canada to Mexico it can “help transform and, ultimately, be an expression of the noble civilization of humans.”
Raniere has convinced some followers he doesn’t drive because his intellectual energy sets off radar detectors. Dozens of followers assemble annually near Lake George for Vanguard Week, a celebration of Raniere’s birthday also considered a corporate retreat.
At least one cult expert said Raniere directs one of the most extreme cults he has ever studied and has likened Raniere to David Koresh. Other experts believe there is sufficient evidence for the New York Attorney General to investigate whether NXIVM — thought to have multimillion-dollar revenues — is an illegal multilevel-marketing business. Raniere “is a compulsive gambler, a sex addict with bizarre desires and needs, and a con man that specializes in Ponzi schemes,” one of his former girlfriends, Toni Natalie, recently declared in federal court.