R&B singer R. Kelly is holding at least five women as part of a sex "cult," according to parents and some former members of his inner circle.
According to three former crew members and the parents of one 21-year-old woman, who was lured by Kelly's promise to promote her singing career, the singer keeps the women at his homes in Atlanta and Chicago, where he controls all aspects of their lives, reported Buzzfeed.
“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet,” said Asante McGee, a former member of his inner circle. “But Robert is the devil.”
Kelly takes the woman's cell phones, requires them to call him "daddy," films their sexual encounters with him and shows the videos to friends, physically and verbally punishes them for minor infractions and restricts their contact with family members, according to the report.
The parents of the 21-year-old woman, who met Kelly two years ago backstage at one of his concerts, said they haven't seen their daughter since December and have received only two brief texts from her since then.
“It was as if she was brainwashed," said the woman's mother, who has shared her investigation of the singer with the FBI and police in two states. "[She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible. I hugged her and hugged her, but she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
The 50-year-old Kelly was acquitted on 14 child pornography-related charges in 2008, after a video appeared to show him having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
But all of the women staying at his rented home outside Atlanta or at his Chicago recording studio are of legal age.
The oldest of the women is 31, and former crew members say she's the longtime best friend of the teen from the sex video and allegedly trains newcomers about Kelly's sexual preferences.
That woman may have recently parted ways with Kelly, according to Buzzfeed sources.
The youngest is an 18-year-old from Florida who Kelly's former crew members described as "his No. 1 girl."
Kelly has been sued at least a dozen times by girls or their parents alleging sexual misconduct, but those cases have ended in settlements that include nondisclosure agreements that keep their claims off the public record.
Those lawsuits, and Kelly's alleged marriage to then-15-year-old Aaliyah, were excluded as evidence in his trial.
Recordings obtained by Buzzfeed show Kelly talking to the 21-year-old woman early in their relationship, and he repeatedly steers the conversation away from music to sex.
The young woman dropped out of college in Georgia last year after losing weight, cutting her hair short and dying it blonde to please Kelly -- and her parents eventually tried to file a missing persons report but were unable since she was not technically missing.
Kitti Jones, who told Buzzfeed about her time living as one of Kelly's girls, said it was difficult to leave his controlling atmosphere.
“I got trapped,” Jones said. “I had people telling me I was an idiot. But it took me a long time to realize they were right, and I’m talking now because I hope I can help some of these other girls.”