Actress India Oxenberg's father is revealed as ex-smuggler who made $50 million importing drugs to US as he speaks out about his daughter's involvement in 'cult that brands women'

Daily Mail, UK/October 30, 2017

By James Wilkinson

The father of actress India Oxenberg, 26, has gone public to plead for his daughter to leave a 'cult' that reportedly brands women.

William Weitz Shaffer, 71, who has stayed out of the public eye since pleading guilty to a massive drug smuggling operation in the 1990s, said he wanted his daughter to leave supposed self-help group Nxivm.

'I've had a close and personal relationship with my daughter India her entire life,' Shaffer told Page Six on Saturday. 'I know in my heart she will do the right thing. She's an angel.'

Shaffer and India's mom, Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg, say she is being held by Nxivm, which she says brands young women with the name of their 'master' - leader Keith Raniere, 57.

Young women are reportedly forced to hand over incriminating evidence and nude photos when they join the group, to ensure their compliance and 'loyalty'.

Shaffer is so concerned that he's even given up the anonymity that he has long enjoyed in order to call out to his daughter.

He dropped off the public radar after a 1992 case in which he pleaded guilty to smuggling marijuana into the US from Thailand. Authorities said the gang made $50 million from the operation.

Shaffer met Catherine, who is the daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, when he was a fugitive living in Germany.

Despite his checkered past, a source who met him in the 1990s said that Shaffer attended India's first birthday - the year before he went to court - and that 'Catherine used to bring India to the prison to visit him'.

India's aunt, writer Christina Oxenberg, herself applauded Shaffer coming forward - but also directed some rather pointed remarks at him.

'Time for some truth,' she wrote on The Huffington Post. 'Could alleviate a lot of pressure on a young lady brought up forbidden to disclose the identity of her father - that can't do much for a person's self esteem.

'Very grateful to see her father, William Weitz Shaffer take responsibility, with love and care and like a dad should. #proudoffamilybehavingwell #love.'

It is unclear who forbade India to reveal her dad's identity.

Catherine Oxenberg told DailyMailTV on Friday that she feared for the well-being of her daughter while she is with Nxivm.

'India is one of the kindest, if not the kindest human being I've ever met,' she said.

'And I feel like she's easy prey, I think she's in danger. My heart is broken. I want my daughter back and I won't stop until I get her.'  

She says that India is being held in the cult's Albany, New York, headquarters, and that she last saw her daughter May 30 after an unsuccessful intervention.

India, however, posted on Facebook: 'I'm absolutely fine, great actually... These are my friends and colleagues, I've never seen anything but good come out of this work.'

One former Nxivm member, Sarah Edmondson, told The New York Times that women were made to strip naked, lie on a massage table as three others held their arms and shoulders.

She would then have to say 'Master, please brand me, it would be an honor,' at which point her skin would be seared just above the bikini line.

Edmondson said she also had to hand over naked photos and other compromising material to her 'master' - a woman named Lauren Salzman - who said it would be released if she went against the group.

Nxivm advertises itself as a self-help course to aid people in pushing through barriers.

But stories coming out of the group say that its founder, Keith Raniere, coerces women into having sex with him and makes them maintain dangerous diets so they stay skinny - just how he likes them.

Frank Parlato, a former PR writer for Nxivm who now runs a website on the group's activities, told Page Six: 'India's being tortured and being held there with blackmail. She’s a victim.'

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