Seagram’s liquor fortune heir Clare Bronfman, who is accused of using her family fortune to bankroll the NXIVM cult, has been sentenced to almost seven 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 pleaded guilty last year to charges she committed credit card fraud on behalf of Raniere and to knowingly harboring a Mexican woman brought to the US on a fake work visa in order to obtain that woman’s labor for herself.
In addition to prison time, Bronfman will also pay a $500,000 fine and $96,605 in restitution to the Mexican woman she recruited.
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.
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 watched on silently on Wednesday 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’.
‘I pray that you will take the claws of Keith Raniere out of you, and you will learn who Clare Bronfman really is.’
Prosecutors say Bronfman recruited individuals into NXIVM-affiliated organizations and then sought to obtain visas or other immigration status for them based on false promises.
In regards to Jane Doe 12, Bronfman submitted documents to secure a work visa that would see the Mexican woman paid $3,600 per month. Prosecutors say, however, that Bronfman only paid the woman about $4,000 over a year-long period for her work.
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 denied being a member of the secret women’s sorority but prosecutors argued that Raniere and NXIVM wouldn’t have been so powerful without her financial support.
She has 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.