Seagram's liquor heiress Clare Bronfman pleads guilty in Nxivm sex-cult case

  • Clare Bronfman, daughter of former Seagram Chairman Edgar Bronfman, pleaded guilty on Friday to two criminal counts in connection with the NXIVM sex cult scandal.
  • She admitted to conspiring to conceal and harbour an undocumented immigrant and to fradulent use of identification in a New York federal court.
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Clare Bronfman, the Seagram liquor heiress, pleaded guilty in a New York federal court on Friday to conspiring to conceal and harbour an undocumented immigrant and to fraudulent use of identification in connection with the NXIVM sex cult case. She told the court she was “truly remorseful.”

Another woman, Kathy Russell, also pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of visa fraud. The two women were indicted last month on charges of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.

Bronfman, the daughter of former Seagram Chairman Edgar Bronfman, joined NXIVM in the early 2000s and has emerged as one of the group’s most high-profile members. While the group was initially formed in the 1990s by Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman as a self-help multi-level marketing company, a New York Times article published in October 2017 alleged that female members were branded and used as sex slaves by Raniere, prompting a Department of Justice investigation.

Read more:
The rise and fall of NXIVM: How a so-called self-help company crumbled after allegations of being a secretive cult that abused sex slaves

Bronfman admitted to harboring a woman who came to the US with a fake work visa, to use the woman’s labour for herself and the organisation, according to Reuters. She also helped Raniere use a dead woman’s credit card. Last month, she fainted in federal court after a judge asked if celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who has been charged for a slew of financial crimes, secretly acted as her attorney.

Allison Mack, known for her role in the CW show “Smallville,” also pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges related to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy for her role with NXIVM. In March, the group’s co-founder, Salzman, pleaded guilty after being charged with identity theft and changing records related to a lawsuit against NXIVM.

In March 2018, Raniere was arrested in a resort town in Mexico and charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labour conspiracy. He is being held without bail, after pleading not guilty, and will stand trial next month on federal racketeering charges.

“As alleged, Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves,” FBI Assistant Director-in-charge William Sweeney said in a press release at the time of Raniere’s arrest.

Last month, new charges emerged that alleged Raniere also sexually exploited a minor.

Bronfman has agreed, as part of her plea, to forfeit $US6 million and not appeal any prison sentence that is 27 months or less. “I wanted to do good in the world and help people,” she said. “However, I have made mistakes.”

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