HBO has announced that it will be releasing a new documentary, which will join the ranks of other popular true crime productions like The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, Mommy Dead and Dearest (the Gypsy Rose Blanchard story), and There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane.
The documentary does not have a name yet, but production has begun. The subject of the documentary? NXIVM the “self-improvement group” founded by Keith Raniere that finds itself at the center of a sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy investigation.
The investigation has ensnared two Seagram’s liquor heiresses (Sara Bronfman-Igtet and Clare Bronfman), and Smallville actress Allison Mack, among others. Kathy Russell, Lauren Salzman and Nancy Salzman were also charged in the case.
Mack allegedly recruited several women to be slaves in the organization where they were allegedly forced to have sex with Raniere and perform labor under threat of extortion. Mack recently admitted to receiving “labor and services” from two alleged female slaves she oversaw on Raniere’s behalf. Additionally, Mack admitted to engaging in a conspiracy to commit the above federal crime. What she didn’t plead guilty to were the sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy charges in the indictment. This could loom large when it comes to the length of her prison stint.
Several former members of NXIVM, which publicly fashioned itself as a female empowerment program, came forward to allege stories of sexual initiation rituals and being forcibly branded with both Raniere’s and Mack’s initials while part of the latter’s “slave pod.”
“As alleged in the indictment, Allison Mack recruited women to join what was purported to be a female mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue in a press release announcing the actress’ charges. “The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants’ benefit.
Isabella Martinez and Gabrielle Leal claimed that Bronfman-Igtet was instrumental in “ensnar[ing]” them in the sex cult by convincing them to take Raniere’s “Executive Success Program” (ESP) courses on the idea that they were “equivalent to a ‘practical MBA’” courses.
They said Bronfman-Igtet touted Raniere as “one of the World’s Smartest Men” and a judo champion, among other things, while exposing them to a fraudulent scheme meant to scam students out of “millions of dollars.” They allege that this money ($2,400 each for a five-day course) was then used to fund a criminal enterprise that allegedly included money laundering, sex trafficking and kidnapping.
They also claimed Bronfman-Igtet didn’t tell them that Raniere had been sued and fined in the past for running an “illegal multilevel marketing business.”
Clare Bronfman, a long-time funder of NXIVM, was arrested on racketeering conspiracy charges. Bronfman-Igtet reportedly played no small role in her sister’s release ahead of trial, shelling out $100 million to bond her out.
Clare Bronfman’s defense attorney Susan Necheles said at the time that her client “did nothing wrong” and that “NXIVM was not a criminal enterprise but […] an organization that helped thousands of people.”
The HBO series will be directed by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer and promises a series that will take a “deep, nuanced look at the experiences of [NXIVM] members, spotlighting their universal desire for personal growth, as it seeks to reveal the issues behind the headlines and explore the emotional toll of unfolding events on these individuals.”
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report. [Image via Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images]