How these Smallville stars were lured into a cult

If you read any of the headlines in the spring of 2018, you probably had one question: How were two of the stars of Smallville, Allison Mack and Kristin Kreuk, lured into a cult that's been accused of everything from sex trafficking to the branding of women? To answer that, we need to take several giant steps back and examine the parent organization allegedly responsible, Nxivm.

Nxivm (pronounced "nexium") is a so-called self help organization that's been compared to Scientology on account of its rigid hierarchy. Members are ranked and assigned colored sashes, according to a 2012 Albany Times Union investigation. Its New Age ideology teaches the need for "ethical people" to control "much of the world's money" in order for "human existence to survive." The founder of Nxivm is Keith Raniere, a self-styled guru who renamed himself "The Vanguard" and who allegedly used his power within the cult to coerce female members into sexual relationships.  

Raniere created other organizations within Nxivm, including the "exclusive sorority" Dominus Obsequious Sororium, or DOS, which former Nxivm member Frank Parlato (via the Daily Mail) claims was co-founded by Mack. It's within the dark inner workings of DOS that this story truly broke open, particularly after Raniere was taken into custody in Mexico on suspicion of "sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor" while Mack helplessly looked on. In the aftermath, here's what we found out about how these former Smallville stars were lured into a cult.

Kristin Kreuk's involvement

After Keith Raniere's arrest, the spotlight shifted to famous people involved in his cult. The most notable name on that list has to be Kristin Kreuk, who played Lana Lang, the love interest of a teenage Clark Kent on the CW drama Smallville.

According to former Nxivm member Frank Parlato (via the New York Post), Kreuk got involved with Nxivm in the mid-2000s, and it was her involvement that allegedly attracted co-star Allison Mack. "Allison was used, as was Kristin, as a lure to bring in other women because of their celebrity status," Parlato told the Post. In a 20/20 report, Nxivm whistleblower Sarah Edmondson said that as she moved through the disturbing stages of initiation, she heard that Mack was a high-ranking member of the so-called sorority. Mack would allegedly go on to become some sort of master within the organization (more on that in a moment), while Kreuk claims to have had minimal involvement.

Kreuk's exit and denial of wrongdoing

Former Nxivm member Frank Parlato — who claims he left Nxivm after one year of employment and became involved in lawsuits with the group — told the New York Post that Kristin Kreuk was part of the Nxivm's "inner circle," and that she only left in 2012, after reports surfaced alleging Keith Raniere's sexual misconduct with minors.

Kreuk disputed that, tweeting a note that read, in part: "The accusations that I was in the 'inner circle' or recruited women as 'sex slaves' are blatantly false. During my time, I never experienced any illegal or nefarious activity. I am horrified and disgusted by what has come out about DOS." Kreuk also said in the note that she initially joined the program to help with her "previous shyness," and that she now regrets having anything to do with the organization. "I am deeply disturbed and embarrassed to have been associated with Nxivm," she wrote. "I hope that the investigation leads to justice for all those affected."

For fellow actress Allison Mack, however, it seems to be a whole different story.

Allison Mack dove deep

Nxivm whistleblower Sarah Edmondson told A&E's Cults and Extreme Beliefs that group's infamous branding took place in Allison Mack's home. She said the brand appears to include both Mack and Keith Raniere's initials. Mack's advancement in the organization allegedly included her leading sub-groups, including the supposed female empowerment movement, Jness, and the infamous DOS, according to former Nxivm member Frank Parlato.

Publicly, Mack previously advertised her involvement with Jness, both on her YouTube channel and on her now-defunct website. Describing Jness as a "women's movement," she wrote (via Fox News), "Many years later, the curriculum continues to guide me through the maze of my inner world shining light on the dark corners of my psychodynamic revealing confusions and insecurities that have hindered the expression of the authentic, empowered woman I have always sought to embody." 

Mack (and Kristin Kreuk, incidentally) also promoted an a capella singing group, which may have had ties to Nxivm leader Keith Raniere, but Mack's public involvement with Nxivm doesn't stop there.

Mack's devotion is real

On the autobiography page of Allison Mack's now-defunct personal website, the former Smallville star didn't attempt to hide her devotion to Keith Raniere. She wrote (via Newsweek), "Over the course of several years, Mr. Raniere mentored Allison in her study of acting and music. 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." Together, Mack and Raniere created another Nxivm offshoot, called The Source, which Mack described as "a private arts academy" that "provides a unique toolset and innovative exercises to increase one's mastery of the art of compassion, utilizing the disciplines of acting and expression."

Mack's feelings about the teachings of Raniere, particularly in terms of The Source, were laid bare in a 2017 video in which she listens to Raniere's thoughts on "authenticity" and the desire to "breakthrough a type of existential isolation." Mack is clearly enraptured as Raniere speaks. However, according to former Nxivm member Frank Parlato, there is a much darker side to all of this life-affirmation and self-empowerment.

What exactly is DOS?

Former Nxivm member Frank Parlato alleges that DOS doubles as an acronym for "dominant over submission" and claims its members were coerced by Allison Mack and Keith Raniere were coerced into allowing themselves to be branded with the pair's initials. DOS members were also allegedly made to take "The Vow," which promises "lifetime slavery to Mr. Raniere and Miss Mack." Pretty big leap from feminist studies, a capella singing, and acting classes, right? But wait — it gets worse. "The 'cream' of Jness women are invited to join DOS, and the 'cream' of DOS women are invited to join Mr. Raniere's harem [subject to his approval]," Parlato alleged. 

In 2017, Mack allegedly assumed the leadership role for DOS, which involved her traveling the globe to "recruit young woman [sic] to join" the various groups within Nxivm. Whatever was or wasn't going on, the whole thing came crashing down in grand fashion in 2018.

The Feds nabbed Raniere

As we previously mentioned, this whole thing kicked off with Keith Raniere's arrest on March 26, 2018 at a luxury resort in Mexico. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, he was charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy. 

"As alleged in the complaint, Keith Raniere created a secret society of women whom he had sex with and branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets," said U.S Attorney Richard P. Donoghue. The justice department's statement also described an "unorthodox pyramid scheme," in which "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."

Initially, it didn't seem like the U.S. Attorney's office had any interest in Allison Mack, even though she was apparently on hand to witness Raniere's arrest.

Mack was present at Raniere's arrest

Thanks to cell phone footage obtained by — who else? — former Nxivm member Frank Parlato, Allison Mack was exposed to the world as being present when authorities dragged her guru away. TMZ ran the story along with Parlato's footage and wrote that Mack was "believed to be second-in-command" to Keith Raniere.

Parlato also published the video footage on Art Voice, along with the identities of three other women who were supposedly present, and who, as Parlato phrased it, "gather to chase after the car that arrested Keith Raniere." (The women can be heard on the video saying, "We're going to follow.") According to the Daily Mail, an unnamed local "authority" in Mexico claimed the women engaged in a high-speed car chase with police.

The Feds later arrested Allison Mack

On April 20, 2018, Allison Mack was also arrested by federal authorities and charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy. In a statement explaining the indictment (via The Hollywood Reporter), Richard P. Donoghue of the U.S. Attorney's Office said Mack "recruited women to join what was purported to be a female mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere. The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants' benefit." 

According to FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, the agency asked "anyone who might have been a victim to reach out to us with information that may further our investigation." More charges followed for other alleged co-conspirators, including Seagram's liquor heiress Clare Bronfman. In March 2019, Nxivm co-founder and former psychiatric nurse Nancy Salzman, and her daughter, Lauren Salzman, pleaded guilty to charges associated with the case. 

On April 8, 2019, Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges, reported The New York Times. During a tearful statement in court, the actress said she would take "full responsibility" for her actions, explaining that she joined the group at a time in her life when she felt "lost." According to the NYT, "Each count to which she pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced in September."