A number of parents have publicly accused R&B singer R. Kelly of keeping young women at his residences against their will as part of a sex-oriented "cult."
According to a report in BuzzFeed News, six young women live with Kelly, whose real first name is Robert, in properties that he rents in Chicago and Atlanta. Three people who used to be close to the singer indicated that Kelly controls the women's lives, telling them how to dress, what to eat and when they can bathe and sleep.
He also allegedly regulates how and when they have sex, which he allegedly records and shows to other people.
One of the parents whose daughter is living with Kelly told BuzzFeed that she thinks her daughter has been "brainwashed." She last saw her in December 2016.
"[She] looked like a prisoner, it was horrible," the woman said. "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."
Another mother said she hasn’t seen her daughter in over a year. She said all of her texts and voicemails go unanswered.
"We’ve had deaths in the family, birthdays, and I haven’t heard from her and she hasn’t been here for any of it," she said. "I didn’t even hear from her on Mother’s Day. All I want to do is bring her home."
Cheryl Mack, Kelly's former personal assistant, said the performer tricks women into believing that, by coming to live with him, they will "live a lavish lifestyle."
"No. You have to ask for food," Mack said. "You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. ... He is a puppet master."
Kitti Jones and Asante McGee said they both lived with Kelly and carried on sexual relationships with him over the past five years. They said Kelly requires that the women in his home call him "daddy." He allegedly confiscates their mobile phones and gives them new ones, which they can only use with his permission.
"R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet. But Robert is the devil," McGee said, suggesting that the singer has two personalities.
Kelly allegedly punishes the girls for breaking the "rules" he sets out for them.
"He left [one of the young women] on the [tour] bus for, like, three days and she was not allowed to come out," McGee alleged. "He said she didn’t do her homework -- that’s why she was punished -- which was very confusing, because she had just graduated [high school] over the summer."
All of the women living with Kelly are above the age of consent, and BuzzFeed reports that several police welfare checks were completed without any charges being filed. In fact, one of the women, an aspiring singer from Georgia, told police that she was "fine and did not want to be bothered."
Kelly has been accused in the past of having inappropriate relationships with underage girls. In 2008, he was acquitted on 14 child pornography charges. Kelly has settled more than a dozen civil lawsuits out of court with cash payments. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
BuzzFeed was unable to reach Kelly for comment. His attorney, Linda Mensch, said in an email that the story was part of a campaign of defamation.
"We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life," she wrote. "It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that."
Kelly still records music and performs concerts, according to Syracuse.com. He is best known for his Grammy-winning hit, "I Believe I Can Fly," which was used in the movie "Space Jam."