Allison Mack was in a Brooklyn federal courtroom three years ago. She was charged with crimes related to her role in a sex cult and human trafficking. She couldn’t believe it. She was only following the teaching of the man known as “guru.”
Her humiliation outside the courtroom had been plastered all over the internet, social media and tabloids. Sex Cult. Actress. Few needed to read further to be intrigued.
Inside, Mack was hearing about how the cult took not only the possessions but the dignity from many members. For Mack’s family, it took the Allison they knew. Her mom stood feet away, pleading for the judge to let her out on bail.
Mack had traded her Hollywood designer clothing for an orange jumpsuit, her bracelets for handcuffs and shackles.
“I bowed my head and wondered ‘How did we get here?" her mother recalled.
It’s the question that’s buzzed in the air since federal officials announced the charges against Mack and others involved in the cult known as NXIVM. Mack seemingly had the world in front of her. That was all gone. She now faced life as a felon.
“How did we get here?”
ALL GROWN UP
Mack was the middle of three children. Her father was an opera singer, and her mother was a Catholic school teacher. From a young age, Mack’s parents noticed her charismatic personality and that led them to nudge her to the world of modeling.
She had a few gigs and then moved into being a child actress with bit roles on TV and movies.
Mack’s life was recapped in a series of letters filed by her family ahead of her June 30 sentencing on federal charges. Friends, relatives and lawyers all submitted documents to fight for Mack as she faces more than a dozen years behind bars. She previously pleaded guilty to federal charges of racketeering conspiracy and racketeering
- Mindy Mack
I bowed my head and wondered ‘How did we get here?
June 2021’s prison hearing was a far cry from the elementary school student that teachers described as a “sweet child that showed kindness and willingness to help other children in the classroom,” Allison’s mom, Mindy Mack, recalled.
Her bother, whose name is redacted from the court filings, described how his sister’s passions were in the dramatic arts.
Mack excelled in school and participated in theater production. When Mack turned 15 years old, she landed a role on a Disney television series. The next year, she landed a role in Hollywood. Then, a year later, her most-known role on the TV show “Smallville,” which was filmed in Vancouver, Canada.
Her family didn’t see much of her, as Mack visited once or twice a year. During one trip, she told them about NXIVM.
“She felt empty like something was missing,” wrote Mindy Mack, as she detailed how her daughter felt a hole in life despite the friend and money.
Mack first enrolled in an NXIVM seminar in Vancouver and her mom joined her for a session. Mindy Mack saw how a person could believe their life could be bettered through the program.
Mack was excited about NXIVM and wanted her brother to join as well. He questioned why someone would pay for the classes when the same ideas were in books. But, he let it be as Mack seemed happy.
Mack continued to attend NXIVM programs as she filmed more than 200 episodes of the comic-book-based show and traveled to Albany, New York, to visit NXIVM’s headquarter. She then moved to New York City to seek a career in theatre. That allowed her to travel move to Albany. For a time, she even moved to the state capital.
“I was concerned about the level of commitment the NXIVM community expected of her,” Mindy Mack wrote. Members had to report their activities, goals, weight and diet to higher-ups and could be punished or rewarded based on the results.
The visits with the family declined and relatives noticed her hair changing colors and the tired look Mack carried. Her brother noted it remains painful to see pictures of her from that time.
Mack became more involved with NXIVM and nurtured and welcomed new members into the clan.
When Mindy Mack visited Albany, there were times when people came to their house in the middle of the night confused over the day’s NXIVM message. Allison stopped what she was doing and focused on helping them. Her home became known as the “womb.”
It all seemed good to Mindy Mack. But, what was going on behind the scene was a cult that took advantage of members — and Mack was leading the efforts.
A BRAINWASHED STAR
Mindy Mack had some concerns with the commitment NXIVM asked of her daughter, but Mack appeared to be following a path that would bring her fulfillment. Allison Mack told her mom about Keith Raniere and how he asked if she could create a program for performing artists.
Mack was thrilled to work with the man she knew as “Guru.”
- Allison Mack
I wish with everything in me that I had chose differently.
In 2018, Mack told her mom that she was in a secret sorority through NXIVM designed to make women stronger and more independent. Mack was excited about her growth. But, that is when Mindy Mack’s concerns with the program grew and she started to realize her daughter was involved with a cult and not just a program to fulfillment.
“She was being manipulated to obey Keith Raniere, believing it was essential for her own growth,” Mindy Mack wrote.
Prosecutors painted a picture of what was happening in NXIVM. Mack was known as a “master” who recruited women into the cult as her “slaves.” Mack painted it as a simple sorority. Once they were hooked, the demands changed.
Mack required the “slaves” to produce collateral to join, such as writing down false tales of being abused as children, sexually explicit photos and financial information. The group threatened to release the collateral if there were issues with the “slaves.” Mack made the slaves perform labor and engage in sex with Raniere.
The slaves were also branded with a logo, which was Raniere’s initials.
In one case, a woman named “Nicole” agreed to join NXIVM, which Mack referred to as “the vow.” Nicole agreed but was not told about the collateral. The group later required the collateral that included access to Nicole’s credit card and her grandmother’s wedding ring.
Mack told Nicole to be celibate for six months and then contact Raniere. Blindfolded, Nicole left Mack’s New York home and met Raniere. He led her to a car and drove her to a house. There, he told Nicole to undress and get on a table, where she was tied down.
Another person, a woman, performed oral sex on Nicole and Raniere said she was “very brave” and that she shouldn’t tell anyone what happened.
Nicole met other of Mack’s slaves through the program and Mack frequently required them to pose for nude photographs, which were sent to Raniere
CULT BECOME PUBLIC
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Around that time, Mack’s brother read a New York Times article that detailed NXIVM and the cult’s practices.
“I received an anonymous email at work saying that Allison was in very bad trouble and needed help,” he wrote. “I felt completely powerless but replied that I would do whatever I could to help.”
Mack had not spoken to her brother for months, and he was convinced the cult had taken over her life.
Within days Mack was arrested. Her fall from grace complete. Her life became fodder for magazines and celebrity tabloids. Actress. Sex. Lesbian. Cult. Leader. The words alone led to eyeballs and that meant more fame than Mack experienced in her Hollywood career.
After the federal bond hearing in Brooklyn, Mack was put on home confinement and sent to live with her family. Her mother described how, at first, her daughter believed she did nothing wrong. She was merely following Raniere’s teachings and helping other women.
“Somedays, she would stay in bed weeping and other days she would rage and then feel regret for losing control,” Mindy Mack wrote. “She was hounded and publicly humiliated by the media. The shame she felt was crushing her soul.”
And all Mindy could do was watch her daughter fade into her emotions.
- Mindy Mack
She was hounded and publicly humiliated by the media. The shame she felt was crushing her soul.
“She refused to consider she had been manipulated by Keith and believed his directions were always to encourage her,” Mindy Mack wrote. “She became angry when I suggested that she had been brainwashed by Keith.
“She told me she had chosen all her actions and that she wasn’t ‘crazy.’
“She clearly did not know what brainwashing meant.”
While on house arrest, Mack attended community college. She graduated in the spring of 2020 with a perfect GPA and was a valedictorian at graduation. She worked part-time for a catering company, a stark switch for the former actress.
“Coming from a background in show business, Allison had always been the one being served,” Mindy Mack stated. “In her catering position, she was now the one serving, giving her an entirely new perspective.”
Mack was accepted to the University of California-Berkley and attended classes online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a double major in Rhetoric and Psychology — an interesting choice given Mack’s role in the cult over the last few years. Mack is set to graduate in 2022 and wants to attend graduate school.
Her brother noted Mack lost interest in being an actress and found a love in higher education. She now reads books on feminist theory, philosophy and psychology.
Mack also joined a non-denominational Christian church.
While attending school, Mack’s family started to notice that her old personality returned. She also realized what she did as a member of NXIVM.
“As Allison started to understand the depth of deception and betrayal she experienced at the hands of Keith, she began to take responsibility for her nefarious behavior,” Mindy Mack wrote. “As my son observed, ‘We’ve had Hollywood Allison, NXIVM Allison and we finally Our Allison back.”
Her brother stated the cult swallowed Mack’s whole life. She has now left all the ideas of NXIVM and replaced them with better value.
“I feel like Allison‘s 12 years in NXIVM were almost a bad dream,” Mack’s brother noted.
FLIPPING ON THE CULT
As she approached trial, Mack wanted to take responsibility for her role in NXIVM. She agreed to plead guilty and provided information to the government. She described the criminal conduct, the sex abuse and the extortion.
Mack even provided investigators with a recording that served as a critical piece of evidence during Raniere’s trial. The recording detailed various criminal activities by the group. Mack wasn’t called to the witness stand but was ready to testify against Raniere during his trial.
Several other NXIVM members pleaded guilty after Mack told the world she had committed the crimes.
As a result of her help, prosecutors asked a judge for leniency for Mack’s sentencing. A typical sentence for his crimes calls for 14 to 17 years in prison. The government did not put a figure on its request, only asking for less than the recommended. Mack, her lawyers and her family ask for her to go on probation.
- Allison Mack's lawyers
The NXIVM saga and the story of Ms. Mack’s descent have been a tragedy for all involved.But that need not, and should not, be the end of the story for Allison Mack.
Her lawyers noted Mack will live with the scorn and guilt from NXIVM for the rest of her life. They asked the judge to keep her out of prison so she can continue her rehabilitation and education.
“The NXIVM saga and the story of Ms. Mack’s descent have been a tragedy for all involved,” the lawyers noted in their sentencing. “But that need not, and should not, be the end of the story for Allison Mack.”
While plenty have spoken for Mack for the better part of the past decade — from Rainiere to prosecutors to her family begging for her to avoid the penitentiary — Mack penned a letter to speak to the judge herself. Its message was simple.
“[NXIVM] was the biggest mistake and greatest regret of my life.”
Mack wrote that the last three years on home confinement have been the most transformative of her life. It allowed her to confront her past and realize she threw herself into Raniere’s teaching with the hope that it would lead to a better version of herself. That didn’t happen.
Mack apologized to those she brought into NXIVM and how she encouraged them to participate in something “so ugly.”
“I am sorry I ever exposed you to the nefarious and emotionally abusive scheme of a twisted man,” Mack wrote.
As she came to understand her choices, Mack said she has experienced “overwhelming shame.” She said there were times she was afraid she wasn’t going to make it through alive because of the pain.
While she deals with her own pain, she admitted she can not heal the hurt she caused others.
“I can promise you that your hurt has not gone unseen and acknowledging this has changed me to my core,” the ex-actress wrote.
Mack also apologized to her friends and family who tried to warn her about NXIVM, but she didn’t listen. She pushed them away and turned from them. She lied to her family to protect the delusion she harbored.
She added she understood if her friends chose not to be around in the future. Mack stated she now wants to work to help mend the fences she broke and continue her journey to be a more compassionate woman.
“I wish with everything in me that I had chose differently,” Mack wrote, “but I cannot change the past.”
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