Now that Smallville actress Allison Mack has been arrested on sex trafficking and forced labour charges, the so-called sex cult she allegedly helped create has a new leader, former insiders say.
Heiress to Canadian liquor fortune Clare Bronfman is now in charge of an estimated dozen or more “slaves” spread between New York and Toronto, according to former Nxivm publicist Frank Parlato—though that could potentially change if Mack is granted bail this week.
The alleged sex cult is an offshoot of Nxivm, a pyramid-like self-help organization founded by Keith Raniere. Women recruited into the secret group were branded with Mack and Raniere’s initials and allegedly blackmailed into unwanted sex. Women were then required to recruit more “slaves” into the group, which at one point boasted more than 50 members.
Clare Bronfman has previously denied being part of the secret “sorority” also known as DOS, but has been a longtime follower of Raniere. Last week VICE reported on more than a dozen lawsuits Clare and her sister Sara Bronfman have spearheaded against Nxivm adversaries, which former insiders say intimidated and silenced critics.
Parlato says Clare is among the most “ruthless” and “fanatical” Raniere devotees, who along with her sister has sunk more than $100 million into Nxivm ventures. Parlato told VICE she may now be plotting to discredit Nxivm critics, based on a number of domain names recently purchased by the organization.
“They bought up a number of domain names to attack some of the witnesses,” he said. “If Jane Doe 1 or 2 decided not to testify, that would certainly hurt the case against Raniere… I think she would do whatever it takes to see that those witnesses don’t testify.”
Raniere claims to have one of the highest IQ scores on Earth and requires students to call him “Vanguard” and bow to him. He was arrested in late March on sex trafficking and forced labour charges and was not granted bail.
According to a criminal complaint and US prosecutor statements this week, Mack helped “groom” women for sex with Raniere. Her “slaves” are required to hand over naked photos as “collateral” which they believed would be released if they spoke out about the group. The women are also kept on near-starvation diets and coerced into free labour at all hours of the night and day—a practice Parlato says has eased slightly in Raniere’s absence.
“What I hear from inside sources is some are sleeping like they’ve never slept before, some are cheating on their diets, while others are more fanatical than ever—just weeping and gnashing teeth because they’re worried about Raniere.”
Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox daily.
On her personal website, Clare Bronfman defended the secret group as a consensual expression of friendship. “I find no fault in a group of women (or men for that matter) freely taking a vow of loyalty and friendship with one another to feel safe while pushing back against the fears that have stifled their personal and professional growth,” she wrote in December. “It’s not for any of us to judge how they, or anyone else, choose to advance their lives and values.”
Mack will find out early this week whether or not she will be released on bail. US prosecutors have asked for “substantial secured bond” as well as house arrest and electronic monitoring “given the serious risk of flight and danger to the community that the defendant poses.”
Follow Sarah on Twitter.