An alleged "cult" based in Upstate New York is suspended operations after its leaders were arrested and charged with sex trafficking.
"We are suspending all Nxivm/ESP enrollment, curriculum and events until further notice," a message on the NXIVM website says. "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."
It's unclear when the message was posted, but it was sometime after NXIVM leader Keith Raniere and "Smallville" actress Allison Mack were charged over their involvement with the group, which calls itself a self-help organization. Raniere is being held without bail on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy; Mack was released on $5 million bond and placed under house arrest on similar charges.
Mack, best known for playing young Superman's friend Chloe Sullivan on The CW TV series "Smallville," has been accused of working as a slave "master," recruiting unsuspecting women to Raniere's group NXIVM (pronounced "nexium"), based in the Albany area and with thousands of members worldwide. Prosecutors say the 35-year-old actress helped recruit women, who were then exploited sexually and for labor
"Mack and other ... masters recruited ... slaves by telling them that they were joining a women-only organization that would empower them and eradicate purported weaknesses the NVIVM curriculum taught were common in women," prosecutors said.
Both Raniere and Mack have pleaded not guilty to all charges. A trial date has been set for Oct. 1.
Raniere 57, was arrested by the FBI in Mexico in late March, four months after he fled the country amid allegations the group brands women and requires them to have sex with Raniere. The group also allegedly requires them to give their "master," or recruiter, naked photos of themselves before becoming members.
NXIVM has long described itself as a self-help organization, but former member Sarah Edmondson filed a complaint last year, saying she was branded with Raniere's initials, "KR."
Mack told The New York Times that the branding was her idea.
"I was like: 'Y'all, a tattoo? People get drunk and tattooed on their ankle 'BFF,' or a tramp stamp," Mack said last month. "I have two tattoos and they mean nothing.' "
The Justice Department began a federal investigation of NXIVM in December after the Times reported that DOS, a women's only group within NXIVM, was a "secret sorority" that brainwashes members, puts them on starvation diets and beats them if they don't recruit enough "slaves." DOS, led by Mack, allegedly stands for "dominus obsequious sororium," Latin for "master over the slave women."
Mack, who appears in several recruitment videos with Raniere on youTube, is believed to be his top recruiter and introduced corporeal punishment for the "slaves."
Frank Parlato, who's written extensively about NXIVM based on interviews with former members for The Frank Report, says DOS works on a master-slave hierarchy with Raniere at the top followed by Mack. Other members also reportedly include former "Dallas" star Catherine Oxenberg's daughter India Oxenberg, wealthy Seagram's heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman, and "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" star Kristin Kreuk.
Mack was allegedly recruited by Kreuk, who also appeared on "Smallville" as Clark Kent's love interest Lana Lang. Parlato says Kreuk left before the group began forcibly branding women; Mack later moved from "slave" to "slave master."
"Allison was used, as was Kristen, as a lure to bring in other women because of their celebrity status," Parlato said.
Parlato adds that women are kept on strict diets of 500 to 800 calories because Raniere likes his women thin, and claims "fat" drains them of their energy. Video of Raniere's arrest showed Mack appearing emaciated as she watches federal agents take him into custody.
NXIVM, based in the Albany suburb of Colonie, says it has over 16,000 members in chapters nationwide, as well as in Canada and Mexico. Officials and associates have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and dispute any allegation that it is a cult.
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