April 21, 2018 11:27 AM ET
by SASHA INGBER
Actress Allison Mack was arrested on Friday morning and charged with recruiting women into an empowerment group that functioned as a sex trafficking operation.
Mack, 35, "recruited women to join what was purported to be a female mentorship group," said Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a written statement. "Victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants' benefit."
Prosecutors allege that Mack was involved in the scheme with Keith Raniere, the leader of "NXIVM" (pronounced "Nex-ee-um"). Promoted as a self-help group, the organization offers expensive courses that have in the past attracted support from high-profile people. Former members describe NXIVM as a "cult."
In March, Raniere was arrested on sex-trafficking charges. The 57-year-old is accused of forming and leading a secret group within NXIVM called DOS, an acronym derived from a Latin phrase that loosely translates to "Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions" or "The Vow."
According to a complaint against Raniere, naked "slaves" were branded with a cauterizing pen in their pelvic region while another slave filmed it. The process could take between 20 and 30 minutes and left women with a mark that bore his initials.
Raniere also allegedly preferred thin women and forced his slaves to have low-calorie diets, according to the document. If they disobeyed, they were forced to wear fake udders on their chests while others called them derogatory names.
Federal prosecutors in the statement said that "Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid," which only consisted of women. But the actress played a big role. "Mack is one of the women in the first level of the pyramid immediately below Raniere."
Before joining DOS, women were required to give collateral, such as nude photos or sensitive information on family members, which would later be used to prevent them from telling anyone about the group or leaving it.
On an archived version of Mack's website, her bio states that her "unconventional" acting approach started when she met Raniere, who mentored her over several years. "As such, she has developed a deep connection to the nature of humanity as it relates to acting as an art form, and a tool for personal evolution."
Mack is best-known for playing Chloe in Smallville, a television series that followed Clark Kent in the days before he became Superman.
Describing the actress as "gaunt, disheveled," The New York Post reported that Mack pleaded not guilty to the charges in Brooklyn's federal court. The judge opted not to release Mack but said her lawyers could file a new petition on Monday.
Mack and Raniere each face a minimum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted.
Another Smallville actress, Kristin Kreuk, was accused of recruiting women by NXIVM's former publicist. She denied being part of its inner circle on Twitter.
ClarificationApril 21, 2018
This story has been edited to remove a reference to Richard Branson, who was reported as someone who had supported NXIVM in the past. A spokesperson for Branson said, "There is no association between Keith Raniere and Sir Richard Branson and Sir Richard has no recollection of ever taking part in a seminar hosted by NXIVM. Clare and Sara Bronfman did hire Necker Island several years ago and we understand they hosted a gathering for team members of NXIVM. The island is available for hire by the public and this was one of many gatherings held on the island over the years by various groups from across the world. Sir Richard was not aware of any of the allegations against NXIVM or its leader whatsoever and did not himself host any intensive courses for the group."