An heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune who provided financial support to Keith Raniere, the disgraced leader of NXIVM, is set to face a federal judge on Wednesday when she could be sentenced to up to five years behind bars.
Clare Bronfman, the 41-year-old daughter of late philanthropist and Seagram’s CEO Edgar Bronfman, admitted in a guilty plea last year that she harbored someone who was living in the U.S. illegally for unpaid “labor and services” and that she committed credit card fraud on behalf of Raniere, who was convicted last year of turning women in his group into sex slaves who were branded with his initials.
Prosecutors want U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis to sentence Bronfman to five years in prison, arguing that her financial support was the underpinning of the group NXIVM, pronounced “nexium.”
She gave tens of millions of dollars to NXIVM, which operated a program of intense self-improvement classes.
“There can be little doubt that Raniere would not have been able to commit the crimes with which he was convicted were it not for powerful allies like Bronfman,” prosecutors said in court papers.
But defense lawyers are asking for just probation, arguing that Bronfman had no direct involvement in NXIVM’s most troubling activities. Furthermore, Bronfman’s attorneys said she has pre-existing health conditions that make her particularly at risk for coronavirus if she’s sent to prison.
Bronfman claimed in a letter to the court last month that she “never meant to hurt anyone, however I have and for this I am deeply sorry.
But she also maintained that “NXIVM and Keith greatly changed my life for the better.”
As part of a plea agreement, the beverage heir has already agreed to forfeit $6 million from a fortune prosecutors have said is worth $200 million.
Raniere and NXIVM are best known for the involvement of “Smallville” actress Allison Mack in the group’s leadership structure.
Last year, Raniere was found guilty of multiple charges including racketeering, sex trafficking and possession of child pornography related to his group which operated near Albany.
Both Raniere and Mack are awaiting sentencing.