Everything We Know About the Man Who Recruited Allison Mack Into His Sex Cult, Forcing Women to Become Branded Sex Slaves

Recently, Keith Raniere became a household name as we learned the horrifying details of his alleged sex cult, something Emma Watson and other celebrities were nearly lured into joining. Since Smallville actress Allison Mack has been indicted for allegedly helping Raniere recruit cult members, much of the media focus has been on her, leaving us to wonder who this man really is.

As it turns out, Raniere has been around for awhile, and he’s pretty persuasive. How does a major Hollywood actress get sucked into a sex cult in this day and age? It’s easier than you think.

Who is Keith Raniere?

Actress Allison Mack leaves U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York after a bail hearing, April 24, 2018 in Brooklyn. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Keith Raniere is the son of a New York City advertising executive and a ballroom dancing teacher mother. He was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Suffern, New York, and moved to Albany when he was 16 (after his mother passed away).

Next: Unsurprisingly, Raniere has made some questionable claims about his education.

Raniere’s education and early life

Albany, New York state capital

RPI is located just outside Albany, New York. | lavendertime/iStock/Getty Images

Raniere enrolled in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and claims to have three degrees from the institute. He majored in maths, physics and biology and minored in psychology and philosophy. He also holds a BS degree in biology. Raniere said he was a “genius student,” but investigations into his past revealed he dropped out of high school at 16. He did graduate from high school eventually, but the truth about his “three degrees” is unknown.

Next: Raniere has a history of questionable sexual behavior.

His first known questionable behavior was in 1984

His sexual assault charges began in the 1980s .| Willbrasil21/Getty Images

This apparent sex cult was far from the first incident involving Raniere’s creepy behavior. In 1984, when he was 24, he was accused by a woman of having sex with her underage sister, according to thefamouspeople.com. Raniere claimed he was an enlightened being and that her sister’s spirit was older than her physical age, and also said she was a Buddhist goddess and they were meant to be together.

In 1990, he was accused of raping a 12 year old girl in New York after showering her with affection and grooming her in order to take her virginity. The age of consent in New York is 17.

Next: This is the pyramid scheme that started it all.


The cult started years before actress Allison Mack joined. | Jemal Countess/Getty Images

In 1998, Raniere and an associate, Nancy Salzman, founded NXIVM in upstate New York, offering “executive success programs.” NXIVM is a self-help organization that claims to be “a community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people and answer important questions about what it means to be human.” This was a “spinoff” of Raniere’s earlier venture, a buyers’ club called Consumers’ Buyline.

But, as we recently learned, NXIVM was harboring some sinister secrets.

Next: Eventually, Rainiere was (finally) busted. 

A sex cult?

Blue police light on top of a police car at night.

The police had been interested in NXIVM for some time. | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

Given the history of Raniere’s behavior, it’s a wonder he made it as far as he did with NXIVM, which was branded as an “Executive Success Program” meant to help women network and advance their careers. In October of 2017, several former members spoke to the New York Times, prompting the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn opening an investigation. But it wasn’t until April 2018, when both Raniere and actress Allison Mack were arrested, that the news really got out.

Next: The details that have been released are horrifying.

Accusations of torture, rape, and more

Actress Allison Mack is accused of luring women into the cult. |Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Investigators are claiming NXIVM is a cover for a sex cult where members pay thousands of dollars to attend exclusive workshops and events. Instead, members were forced to perform menial chores and have sex with Raniere, who forbid them from sleeping with anyone else.

To join, members were expected to eat low-calorie diets (Raniere prefers thin women) and forced to hand over sexually explicit material that can be used as blackmail against them. Allegedly, there were even ceremonies in which members were branded in the pubic region with a symbol incorporating his initials. Mack is accused of helping Raniere recruit women and could be found guilty of sex trafficking.

Next: How does this happen?

How do people join cults?

Jim Jones Peoples Temple Cult Leader

Jim Jones and the People’s Temple is one of the most infamous cults of all-time. | Nancy Wong/Wikimedia Commons

It’s pretty clear that Raniere is a lifelong sexual predator, but somehow he was able to masquerade as a leader in business and a kind, compassionate individual. When we hear stories like this, we can’t help but wonder how this happens, especially to celebrities who have resources most don’t. And it’s not what you might expect to hear.

“I find that the vast majority of people who join these groups are extremely intelligent, open-minded, kind, loving people,” said Jodi Wille, a cult expert who directed The Source Family, a feature film about Father Yod and the radical sex-, drugs- and rock ‘n’ roll-fueled sect he ran in the 1970s. “They offer other forms of support that you can’t get from your agent or your manager.”

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