Clare Bronfman, the 40-year-old billionaire heiress to the Seagram Company fortune, pleaded guilty to enabling a sex ring for Keith Raniere, the self-anointed leader of NXIVM, a cult-like group based in upstate New York. In a federal court in Brooklyn on Friday, Bronfman said she harbored someone who was living in U.S. illegally for unpaid “labor and services.” Bronfman also admitted to committing credit card fraud on Raniere’s behalf, according to the Associated Press.
Bronfman is the daughter of billionaire-philanthropist and former Seagram chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr. Her apology to the judge touched on her family’s wealth and privilege that enabled her grievous deeds. “I was afforded a great gift by my grandfather and father,” Bronfman said in court. “With the gift, comes immense privilege and more importantly, tremendous responsibility. It does not come with an ability to break the law … For this I am truly sorry.”
Bronfman agreed to forfeit $6 million from her $200 million fortune, per AP.
NXIVM’s accountant, Kathy Russell, also pleaded guilty on Friday to a fraud charge. Russell and Bronfman join three other NXIVM defendants who have pleaded guilty, including former Smallville actress Allison Mack. According to the initial New York Times report exposing the group in 2017, Mack was the lead recruiter in NXIVM’s all-female sect called DOS. This sect supplied “slaves” who were blackmailed into engaging in sexual activity with Raniere and required to brand themselves with Mack’s and Raniere’s initials.
NXIVM operated under the guise of offering self-improvement classes, which Bronfman bankrolled with tens of millions of dollars. Per AP, she also paid for the NXIVM’s legal counsel when the group was served.
Though Bronfman faces more than two years in prison, her plea prolongs her sentencing to July 25th – nearly two months after Raniere’s sentencing in early May. Raniere faces conspiracy charges alleging that people such as Bronfman created a ring of women who were forced to have sex with him. Because Russell and Bronfman pleaded guilty, Raniere will face a jury alone.