Bronfman heiress pleads guilty to role in ‘women sex slaves’ case, faces jail
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Allegedly spent $100m funding group that ran secret harem

Bronfman heiress pleads guilty to role in ‘women sex slaves’ case, faces jail

Clare Bronfman, daughter of billionaire philanthropist Edgar Bronfman Sr., gave tens of millions to cult leader; admits harboring someone living in US illegally, credit card fraud

Clare Bronfman, left, arrives at Federal court with her attorney Mark Geragos in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 19, 2019 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Clare Bronfman, left, arrives at Federal court with her attorney Mark Geragos in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 19, 2019 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK — An heiress pleaded guilty on Friday in a sensational case accusing a cult-like upstate New York group of creating a secret harem of sex slaves for the group’s self-anointed spiritual leader.

Clare Bronfman, the 40-year-old daughter of the late World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman Sr., admitted in her plea in federal court in Brooklyn that she harbored someone who was living in the US illegally for unpaid “labor and services” and that she committed credit card fraud on behalf of Keith Raniere, the lead of a group called NXIVM.

Raniere, who was arrested in Mexico last year, is accused of creating a secret society called “DOS,” a pyramid scheme of more than a dozen women “slaves” and “masters” with him — the sole man — at the top.

Bronfman told the judge that she had wanted to help people through NXIVM but ended up dishonoring her family.

Bronfman was accused of using her wealth to fund NXIVM to the tune of more than $100 million.

She was a member of the executive board of the group, which shot to notoriety for its initiation rites including the branding of its members with the founder’s initials.

The money is said to have financed court summons against presumed enemies, fake identities to access data and to help Raniere use the credit card of a deceased ex-mistress.

Besides Raniere, the five other people accused in the case have now all pleaded guilty.

Allison Mack, an actress in the “Smallville” television series, has pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy for allegedly recruiting women to the purported mentorship group, whom US prosecutors say were forced to have sex with its leader.

Canadian-born Edgar Bronfman Sr., a billionaire philanthropist and former chairman of the Seagram liquor company, served as president of the World Jewish Congress from 1979 to 2007, during which time he fought for Jewish rights worldwide. Under his leadership during the 1980s and 1990s, the WJC helped lead effort to gain billions of dollars in restitution for heirs of Holocaust victims. He died in 2013.

“Your honor, I was afforded a great gift by my grandfather and father,” Clare 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.”

She added: “For this, I am truly sorry.”

In this April 13, 2018 courtroom sketch Keith Raniere, second from right, leader of the secretive group NXIVM, attends a court hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York (Elizabeth Williams via AP, File)

As part of a plea agreement, Bronfman agreed to forfeit $6 million from a fortune prosecutors say is worth $200 million. Bronfman now faces up to 25 years in prison but the government’s sentencing guidelines would see her incarcerated for up to just 27 months. Her sentencing hearing is set to take place July 25.

The plea means Bronfman will avoid going to trial early next month with Raniere, who’s facing conspiracy charges alleging that his inner circle of loyalists created a secret society of women who were forced to have unwanted sex with him.

An accountant for the group, Kathy Russell, also pleaded guilty on Friday to a fraud charge. She joined three other NXIVM insiders besides Bronfman who have also pleaded guilty.

Keith Raniere is interviewed by Allison Mack in a 2017 video (YouTube screen capture)

Bronfman had long been affiliated with NXIVM, giving away tens of millions of dollars to bankroll Raniere and his program of intense self-improvement classes. She also paid for lawyers to defend the group against a lawsuit brought by its critics.

With the two guilty pleas on Friday, Raniere will face a jury by himself. Defense attorneys have insisted any relationship between their client and the alleged victims, including women expected to testify against him at trial, was consensual.

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