Seagram’s liquor fortune heir Clare Bronfman, who is accused of using her family fortune to bankroll the NXIVM cult, has been sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine for her role in the branded sex slave case.
Bronfman, the daughter of the late billionaire philanthropist and former Seagram chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr., was sentenced to a total of 81 months on Wednesday at the US District Court in Brooklyn.
The 41-year-old is the first member of the notorious NXIVM group, led by disgraced founder Keith Raniere, to be sentenced.
Bronfman watched on silently as nine women gave victim impact statements before her sentence was handed down and described how their lives had been destroyed by her and NXIVM.
One former member had said she watched Bronfman mentally descend over the years into a ‘dangerous megalomaniac’.
Another slammed her as a predator, saying: ‘You should feel shame, self loathing… You should understand there are lives you destroyed’, according to the New York Daily News.
‘I pray that you will take the claws of Keith Raniere out of you, and you will learn who Clare Bronfman really is.’
Seagram’s liquor fortune heir Clare Bronfman, who is accused of using her family fortune to bankroll the NXIVM cult, arrived at Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday where she faces sentencing for her role in the branded sex slave case
Bronfman’s lawyers had asked a judge to give her three years’ probation instead of prison time but prosecutors had argued she deserved at least five years behind bars.
Bronfman pleaded guilty last year to charges she committed credit card fraud on behalf of Raniere and to knowingly harboring a woman brought to the US on a fake work visa in order to obtain that woman’s labor for herself.
Raniere, the disgraced leader of the self-improvement group in upstate New York, was convicted last year of turning women into sex slaves who were branded with his initials.
His adherents included Bronfman, actress Allison Mack of TV’s Smallville; and a daughter of TV star Catherine Oxenberg of Dynasty fame.
In a letter to the court just last month, Bronfman wrote that she ‘never meant to hurt anyone, however I have and for this I am deeply sorry’. Still, she said that she couldn’t disavow Raniere, who is due to be sentenced next month, because ‘NXIVM and Keith greatly changed my life for the better’.
During Raniere’s trial last year, prosecutors told jurors that NXIVM operated like a cult.
To honor Raniere, the group formed a secret sorority called DOS that was comprised of brainwashed female ‘slaves’ who were branded with his initials and forced to have sex with him, prosecutors said.
Bronfman’s lawyers have argued she deserves leniency because she had no direct involvement in the most disturbing allegations and has a health condition that could put her at greater risk for a coronavirus infection if incarcerated.
Prosecutors, however, said she deserved a serious punishment.
They argue that Raniere and NXIVM wouldn’t have been so powerful without her financial support.
Bronfman arrived at court wearing a mask on Wednesday ahead of her sentencing hearing. Her lawyers want a judge to give her three years’ probation instead of prison time but prosecutors argue she deserves five years behind bars
Keith Raniere, the disgraced leader of the self-improvement group in upstate New York, was convicted last year of turning women into sex slaves who were branded with his initials
Bronfman had long been affiliated with NXIVM and gave away tens of million of dollars to bankroll Raniere and his program of intense self-improvement classes.
She also paid for lawyers to defend the group against lawsuits brought by its critics.
As part of her plea agreement, Bronfman agreed to forfeit $6 million from a fortune prosecutors have said is worth $200 million. They also are seeking a $500,000 fine.
The plea meant Bronfman, who was one of the most devout members of the group, avoided going to trial.
Bronfman was one of five NXIVM members to be charged alongside Raniere – the guru of the group that attracted heiresses and Hollywood actresses.
Smallville actress Allison Mack, the group’s bookkeeper Kathy Russell, NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman and her daughter Lauren Salzman were also charged.
All five women initially tried to fight the charges but eventually agreed to plead guilty as part of deals with prosecutors.
Raniere is the only one to have faced trial.
Prosecutors say the secret society was comprised of brainwashed female ‘slaves’ who were branded with his initials and forced to have sex with him