In an interview apparently conducted before she was charged with sex trafficking, among other counts, former Smallville costar Allison Mack told a reporter it was her idea to brand some female members of the controversial self-help group Nxivm.
According to Mack’s quotes, published Thursday in a New York Times Magazine article, she says she was the one who decided specific women within Nxivm — all part of a secretive subgroup known as “Dominus Obsequious Sororium” or DOS, according to prosecutors — should be marked with co-founder Keith Raniere’s initials, using a cauterizing pen.
The Times describes Mack, 35, as taking “full responsibility for coming up with” the brand.
“I was like: ‘Y’all, a tattoo? People get drunk and tattooed on their ankle “BFF,” or a tramp stamp,’ ” Mack is quoted as saying. “‘I have two tattoos and they mean nothing.’ ”
Instead, according to the Times, Mack “wanted to do something more meaningful, something that took guts.”
The symbol each member was branded with appears to have included not just Raniere’s initials but also an “AM” — Mack’s initials.
The NYT Magazine article details at length the various beliefs and practices of the New York-based Nxivm, which markets itself on the basis of its empowerment practices, including helping members manage emotional trauma.
But federal prosecutors contend the group has a darker side largely built on coercion and manipulation with Raniere and Mack, his lieutenant, atop DOS, a sexual pyramid scheme of select women from the larger pool of Nxivm members.
Investigators allege Raniere, who was known as “Vanguard” to his followers, occupied the top of the pyramid and was DOS’ only male member. Beneath him were tiers of female “slaves,” each of whom could become a “master” by recruiting other women into the group, according to prosecutors.
One former devotee described Nxivm as a “cult,” and the group has been the subject of scrutiny from both law enforcement and journalists as it came under fire from Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose estranged daughter, India, joined in 2011.
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The criminal complaint against Raniere, obtained by PEOPLE, outlines how authorities believe the women in DOS were forced to turn over “collateral” — identified as potentially-damaging personal information or materials, such as nude photographs, with which they later could be blackmailed.
The women allegedly victimized by Mack and Raniere believed their “collateral” would be released if they did not engage in sexual activity with the 57-year-old Nxivm leader, prosecutors have said.
The Times piece reports that Mack was Raniere’s personal slave and that “the collateral she gave him as her ‘master’ was chilling: a contract declaring that if she broke her commitment, her home would be transferred into his name and future children birthed by her would be his, as well as a letter addressed to social services claiming abuse of her nephews.”
Authorities suspect Mack forced DOS slaves, including a woman identified as Jane Doe 1, to have sex with Raniere and that Mack “groomed DOS slaves for sex with Raniere by requiring [them] to adhere to extremely restrictive diets and not remove their pubic hair (in accordance with Raniere’s sexual preferences) and by requiring them to remain celibate and not to masturbate.”
According to arguments prosecutors made in court documents, Mack allegedly demanded that the group’s slaves partake in “readiness” drills requiring them to respond to their masters at any time of night. Mack’s slaves were also allegedly “kept seriously sleep-deprived and emaciated to the point where they stopped menstruating.”
Prosecutors claim that during ceremonies in which her slaves were branded, Mack “placed her hands on the slaves’ chests and told them to ‘feel the pain’ and to ‘think of [their] master,’ as the slaves cried with pain.”
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Mack allegedly “received financial benefits [in] the form of continued status and participation in DOS, as well as financial opportunities from Raniere,” according to court documents filed by prosecutors.
Raniere was arrested in Mexico in March. Mack was taken into custody the next month. Both face the same federal charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy and have pleaded not guilty.
Their attorneys have not responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment. A representative for Mack previously declined comment.
While Raniere told the Times he had sexual relationships with two DOS members, his attorney, Marc Agnifilo, said earlier this month that “everything was utterly consensual — it was adults making decisions on their own of their own free will, and that’s what the trial is going to show.”
“A lot of adult, strong-minded, free-willed women made decisions for their own lives,” Agnifilo said.
In statements posted to Nxivm’s website, Raniere has said that all of the women involved in the DOS subgroup were consenting adults and that Nxivm was not involved in what he dubbed a “sorority.”
The group has not responded to numerous requests for comment from PEOPLE. In the fall, they denounced a New York Times article about them as “a criminal product of criminal minds.”
Mack and Raniere are scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 1.