A 189-page civil action filed in the Eastern District of New York alleges that NXIVM was a "criminal enterprise".
The lead plaintiff, Vancouver actor Sarah Edmondson, and others have claimed that "the central purpose of the conspiracy" was to entice them to join the organization, "which functioned as both a Ponzi scheme and coercive community".
NXIVM is a defunct Albany-based multilevel marketing company that had an office in Vancouver, which recruited local people in the film and television industry.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants—NXIVM cofounder and leader, Keith Raniere, as well as cofounder Nancy Salzman, former Smallville actor Allison Mack, heiress Clare Bronfman, and several others—conspired to commit sex trafficking and human trafficking offences.
"Defendants exerted power over the Plaintiffs; took their money; made it financially, physically and psychologically difficult, and in some cases impossible, to leave the coercive community; and systematically abused Plaintiffs physically and emotionally," the lawsuit claims. "In doing so, the Defendants achieved a number of personal benefits including but not limited to enriching themselves; wielding power over others; advancing in the perverse social order they created; and enhancing their own feelings of self-esteem."
In addition, the lawsuit claims that many defendants profited and had "substantial access to free labor, including personal assistants, housekeepers, drivers, personal shoppers, and others".
None of these allegations have been proven in civil court.
There are more than 80 plaintiffs, including "dozens of Canadians", according to CBC News.
Mack, Bronfman, and Salzman all pleaded guilty last year to criminal charges prior to the mastermind, Raniere, being convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering.
"Defendants promoted NXIVM's programs in part by representing that Raniere was the world's smartest man, who allegedly had an IQ of 240 and was a child prodigy, speaking in complete sentences at age one, mastering college level mathematics in two days at age eleven, winning championship judo and track tournaments, and graduating college with three degrees," the lawsuit alleges. "None of this was true."
Edmondson was the whistleblower, telling ABC in 2017 that she had been branded with Raniere's initials in her pelvic area in a secret ceremony without anesthesia.
"The ceremonies were recorded, thereby creating an additional piece of collateral," the lawsuit states. "They were told that the brand was a symbol representing the elements of nature."
The court document also claims that NXIVM engaged in "withering campaigns of abusive, vexatious litigation" against critics and even initiated bogus criminal investigations through false accusations.
"Numerous Plaintiffs suffered in silence for years, even avoiding cooperation with law enforcement authorities once it became known that the federal government was investigating Defendants," the lawsuit states. "Only now, after the guilty pleas and convictions of a number of the Defendants, so Plaintiffs feel safe enough to come forward and assert their claims."