The FBI arrested Keith Raniere, the leader of alleged “sex cult” NXIVM (pronounced Nex-e-um) based in upstate New York, on Monday for charges of sex trafficking and forced labor.
Allegations against Raniere, called “Vanguard” by his followers, have been circulating for months, with multiple reports connecting Raniere to former “Smallville” star Allison Mack, 36 (pictured above), who is allegedly a member of the group and partner with Raniere in his criminal activities. The Albany Times Union reports that Mack is identified in the complaint as an “unnamed co-conspirator.”
In October, The New York Times reported on “DOS,” NXIVM’s “secret sorority” which allegedly brands Raniere’s select female followers as well as starving and abusing them for failing to recruit enough “slaves” to the cult. To ensure their loyalty, cult leaders allegedly draw out damning details from the lives of the followers as well as take humiliating photos as blackmail.
The most prominent whistleblower is Frank Parlato, a former spokesman for the group, who has detailed in a blog the allegations against Raniere and Mack, including that Mack is his right-hand woman, leads the DOS sorority, and is a “key recruiter” for the group. Under Raniere and Mack’s direction, the initiates are allegedly branded with the two leaders’ initials. Raniere reportedly maintains his control through manipulation, including an inflated portrayal of his own intelligence, and threat of blackmail and punishment.
“Raniere describes the group as a private sorority on the NXIVM website, and followers insist that it is a self-help organization and not a cult,” NYUp reports.
The Albany Times Union provides some more details about the arrest of Raniere (formatting adjusted):
A warrant for Raniere’s arrest was issued more than a month ago. Raniere was taken into custody this week after Mexican immigration officials helped U.S. authorities track him to a luxury, $10,000-a-week villa near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he was staying with several women, federal officials said.
Raniere flew to Mexico last November after U.S. authorities began interviewing “witnesses and victims” associated with NXIVM and the secret club, authorities said. But finding Raniere had been difficult, they said, because he “began using end-to-end encrypted email and stopped using his phone.”
“The defendant was uncooperative when immigration authorities arrived and after he was taken into custody, the women chased the car in which the defendant was being transported in their own car at high speed,” prosecutors said in court papers.