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 including businessman Richard Branson. 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On an archived version of Mack's website, her bio states that her "unconventional" acting approach started when she met Raniere, who mentored her over several years.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.