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Clare Bronfman Sentenced to 81 Months in NXIVM Sex-Cult Case

Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Seagram’s liquor heiress Clare Bronfman was sentenced to 81 months in prison on Wednesday in relation to the Brooklyn federal court NXIVM sex cult case. She was taken into custody following sentencing. She wore a dark face mask with a flower pattern. Before Bronfman was sentenced, she addressed the court, her voice characterized by a slight British accent. She said she was “immensely thankful and privileged” to have support, saying people “know my goodness.” “They’re praying for me.” She said, “I had made mistakes,” and she is “truly sorry for all the pain I have caused.” Addressing the victim in her immigration crime, Bronfman said she hoped the woman would go on to “live a very happy life.” “I’m sorry for the time and resources I’ve taken,” she also said.

Nine people gave victim impact statements, three via prerecorded video and six in person, before Bronfman was sentenced, detailing how Bronfman’s involvement at NXIVM harmed them. Their words were often punctuated by tears and choked up breathing. The overwhelming theme in these statements: Bronfman weaponized her vast wealth, both by pursuing perceived enemies of the group and enabling Raniere’s behavior. “Claire, you gave millions of dollars to him,” one victim said in a video statement. Even if Bronfman didn’t know what the money went toward, the woman said: “you were and are the propellant to this unyielding fire.”

“Did you ever consider that they just wanted your money and what would have happened if you just stopped giving your money?” one woman said. “Would you be as important to them?”

One woman, who said she had a 13-year-old son with Raniere, said that he never paid child support. Because of Bronfman’s financial misconduct, this woman said, the situation “is depriving my son of proper financial support.”

Others described their continued fear of Bronfman, with one saying, “I’m always going to be looking over my shoulder.” Another echoed the sentiment of looking over her shoulder.

In April 2019, Bronfman pleaded guilty to two federal counts: conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and one count of fraudulent use of identification. Her guilty plea came just two weeks after Smallville actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of racketeering for her role in NXIVM.

In June 2019, Keith Raniere, the group’s founder and leader, was found guilty of seven counts, including racketeering and sex-trafficking. Prosecutors said that NXIVM, an Albany-area organization that offered expensive self-help classes, had a secretive sect named DOS that “operated with levels of women ‘slaves’ headed by ‘masters.’” An HBO docuseries, The Vow,  premiered in August, providing a deep dive into NXIVM’s activities.

After Mack was arrested in 2018, prosecutors said that she worked as a “master” under Raniere — recruiting slaves and “directly or implicitly required her slaves … to engage in sexual activity with Raniere.” While pleading guilty, Mack admitted “I was a member of a secret society” and that she tried recruiting women into DOS. Mack also claimed she obtained “collateral,” compromising info about several women, so they would go along with NXIVM’s commands.

Prosecutors previously said that Raniere and Bronfman plotted to commit identity fraud by getting their hands on email login info for “perceived enemies and critics of Raniere in order to monitor their electronic communications” and that she “encouraged and induced the illegal entry” of someone into the U.S. for her financial gain. They asked for her to get five years behind bars, saying in court papers she “used her extraordinary wealth and social status to fund and promote a criminal enterprise led by her co-defendant Keith Raniere. She recruited individuals into NXIVM-affiliated organizations and brought them within Raniere’s orbit.”
Bronfman’s lawyers argued in court papers that she should get three years of probation, not prison time. They contended that prosecutors were trying to muddy the waters by linking her ID fraud and visa crimes to Raniere’s sex rap, writing: “Let it be very clear: Clare Bronfman did not know about DOS, had nothing to do with DOS, and did not fund DOS.”

Both sides reiterated their written arguments in court.

In imposing the hefty sentence, Judge Nicholas Garaufis said, “This is not a defendant who has shown great respect for the law.” Garaufis also imposed a $500,000 fine on Bronfman and ordered her to pay $96,605 in restitution to the victim of her immigration crime. Bronfman previously agreed to forfeit $6 million.

Asked for comment, Bronfman’s lawyer, Ron Sullivan, said, “We’re going to immediately appeal.” “It was a miscarriage of justice,” he said.

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Clare Bronfman Sentenced to 81 Months in NXIVM Sex-Cult Case