Founder of “NXIVM,” a Purported Self-Help Organization, and Actor Indicted for Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor Conspiracy
Defendants Allegedly Branded Their Victims and Forced Them to Participate in Sex Acts
Actor Allison Mack was arrested this morning on an indictment unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging her and Keith Raniere, also known as “Vanguard,” with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. Mack will be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak. Raniere was previously arrested on a complaint and ordered detained. Raniere will be arraigned on a date to be determined.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.
“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,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants’ benefit. This Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to prosecuting predators who victimize others through sex trafficking and forced labor.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the FBI for leading the investigation, and thanked the New York State Police, the FBI Albany Field Office, the New York State Office of the Attorney General, the New York State Department of Health and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York for their assistance.
“Today we announce an additional arrest, and an indictment, in a case that brought to light an inconceivable crime,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “As this pyramid scheme continues to unravel, we ask anyone who might have been a victim to reach out to us with information that may further our investigation.”
Nxivm and The Source
According to court filings, during the past 20 years, Raniere established a series of purported self-help programs within his umbrella organization “Nxivm” (pronounced NEX-i-um). Nxivm is based in Albany, New York and has operated centers in the United States, Mexico, Canada and South America. Nxivm maintains features of a pyramid scheme, as its courses cost thousands of dollars each and participants (“Nxians”) are encouraged to pay for additional classes and to recruit others to take classes in order to rise within the ranks of Nxivm. A number of Nxians were residents of the Eastern District of New York when they were recruited, and Nxivm has held promotional recruiting events in Brooklyn. Mack is credited in publicly available materials with co-creating a Nxivm program, called The Source, which recruited actors.
As detailed in court filings, in 2015, Raniere created a secret society within Nxivm called “DOS,” an acronym that stands for a Latin phrase that loosely translates to “Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions,” or “The Vow.” DOS operated with levels of women “slaves” headed by “masters.” Slaves were expected to recruit slaves of their own (thus becoming masters themselves), who in turn owed service not only to their own masters but also to masters above them in the DOS pyramid. Raniere stood alone at the top of the pyramid. Other than Raniere, all members of DOS were women. Mack is one of the women in the first level of the pyramid immediately below Raniere.
Mack and other DOS masters recruited DOS slaves by telling them that they were joining a women-only organization that would empower them and eradicate purported weaknesses that the Nxivm curriculum taught were common in women. Mack and other DOS masters concealed Raniere’s status at the top of the pyramid from new recruits.
As a pre-condition to joining DOS, women were required to provide “collateral,” which included highly damaging information about friends and family members, nude photographs and/or rights to the recruit’s assets. DOS slaves were told that their collateral could be released for any number of reasons, including telling anyone about DOS’s existence or leaving DOS. Many DOS slaves were branded on their pelvic areas using a cauterizing pen with a symbol which, unbeknownst to them, incorporated Raniere’s initials. During the branding ceremonies, slaves were required to be fully naked, and a master would order one slave to film the branding while the others restrained the slave being branded.
According to court filings, Mack directly or implicitly required her slaves, including Jane Does 1 and 2, as identified in the Indictment, to engage in sexual activity with Raniere. In exchange for this, Mack received financial and other benefits from Raniere. Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 believed that if they did not participate in those activities with Raniere, their collateral would be released.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
If convicted of the crimes charged, Raniere and Mack each face mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years’ imprisonment, and up to life imprisonment.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Moira Kim Penza and Tanya Hajjar are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Karin Orenstein is in charge of the forfeiture portion of the case.
KEITH RANIERE (also known as “Vanguard”)
Residence: Waterford, New York
Residence: Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-204 (NGG)
If you have information regarding this case, or you believe you or a family member may have been a victim, please contact the FBI at 212-384-1000.