Smallville actress Allison Mack was arrested Friday in connection to what investigators are calling a pyramid scheme involving cult leader Keith Raniere. She will be arraigned Friday afternoon, per The Hollywood Reporter.
“As alleged in the indictment, Allison Mack recruited women to join what was purported to be a female-mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere,” United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement. “The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants’ benefit.”
F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge William F. Sweeney called the operation a “pyramid scheme” and asked for anyone who might have been a victim to come forward with any information they have.
The upstate New York–based cult, called Nxivm (pronounced “Nexium”), has connections all over the world, per the New York Post. It allegedly masks as a “self-help” organization that has reportedly drawn other celebrity followers, including Richard Branson.
The N.Y.P. says that as early as 1984, Raniere manipulated 15-year-old Gina Melita into a four-month relationship with him.
“I was perfect picking—insecure at the time,” Melita told the Albany Times Union in 2012. “To have someone that mature, and that well thought of, to be interested in me, it was flattering. I was young, inexperienced, overwhelmed, out of my league.”
In 1990, Raniere started a buyers’ club called Consumers’ Buyline, which was later renamed Nxivm and got funding from the trusts ofClare and Sara Bronfman, heiresses to the Seagram liquor fortune. In 2003, Forbes wrote an exposé on the group; in the story, sources cast doubts on what Raniere was really doing. Their father, Edgar Bronfman Sr., was troubled by his daughters’ involvement with Raniere.
“I think it’s a cult,” he said then.
Raniere has stayed mostly quiet in recent years, but he did respond to a 2017 New York Times story about Nxivm by posting on the Web site for his workshop Executive Success Programs. “Recently a media outlet unfoundedly, and incorrectly, linked Nxivm corporation, and its related companies, with a social group,” he said. “The allegations relayed in the story are built upon sources, some of which are under criminal investigation or already indicted, who act as a coordinated group. This story might be a criminal product of criminal minds who, in the end, are also hurting the victims of the story.”
A representative for Mack did not return a request for comment to T.H.R., and Vanity Fair has reached out for comment as well.
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