The actress Allison Mack was arrested on Friday by federal authorities for her alleged role as a slave master in a sadistic sex cult that starved, enslaved and branded women. She was arraigned in Brooklyn federal court late in the afternoon, and ordered held without bail.
“Under the guise of female empowerment, she starved women until they fit her co-defendant’s sexual feminine ideal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Kim Penza told judge Cheryl Pollak, referring to Keith Raniere, who allegedly led the cult, NXIVM, and who too was ordered held without bail last Friday.
Together, Mack and Raniere face a three-count felony indictment charging them with sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and forced labor, which carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison under strict federal sentencing guidelines.
Mack was lead into Judge Pollak’s courtroom by U.S. Marshalls, who arrested her at an apartment in Brooklyn early Friday morning. The sound of handcuffs and shackles being unhooked preceded her appearance. She wore brown boots, black jeans and a blue jean shirt. Her mangled blonde hair rested on her shoulders.
During most of the proceeding, Mack held her hands clasped behind her back. In one of her hands, she held a crumbled white tissue, which she periodically clutched and released. Mostly she nodded “yes” to questions asked her by Judge Pollak, but, twice judge Pollak instructed Mack to answer verbally, and she said “yes” so quietly it was almost inaudible to spectators in the courtroom.
Her meek disposition stands in stark contrast to the portrait of her painted by prosecutors in their detention memo, which states their reasons why Mack should not be released.
According to them, Mack served as Raniere’s pimp, and is charged with using “fraud, force and coercion” to persuade “young women” into joining a secret group within NXIVM called “DOS” or the “Vow.”
Within DOS, prosecutors say, there were “masters” and “slaves.” Masters required DOS slaves “to perform ‘acts of care’ for their masters and to pay ‘tribute’ to their masters.”
Mack was a DOS master, who recruited slaves, for Raniere and herself, “by describing it as a women’s empowerment group or sorority,” according to prosecutors’ detention memo.
In order to be admitted to the group, prosecutors say, women had to proffer “collateral, which consisted of naked photographs, criminal confessions and other damaging information.” This collateral, which prosecutors say Mack collected and stored, prevented women “from leaving the group or disclosing its existence to others.”
Mack directed her slaves to have sex with Raniere, among other things, prosecutors say.
When she convinced women to join the group, Mack lead ceremonies during which the women were branded with a symbol that, “unbeknownst to them,” included Raniere’s initials. During the ritual, Mack “placed her hands on the slaves’ chests and told them to ‘feel the pain’ and to ‘think of [their] masters,’ as the slaves cried in pain,” prosecutors wrote.
But one of Mack’s lawyers, Sean S. Buckley, of Kobre & Kim, told judge Pollak that these are “only allegations.” Mack, he said, did not pose “a legitimate risk of flight,” and should be released on bail. But Judge Pollak denied that request, and set a bail hearing for Monday.
“These are serious charges,” the judge added. “She may not have realized she was facing 15 years in jail.”