Clare Bronfman — who is the daughter of late billionaire and former Seagram’s liquor chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr. — has been sentenced to prison for fraud and forced labor as a leading member of NXIVM, a cult-like self-help group accused of holding women hostage and forcing them to have sex with the group’s leader.
The 41-year-old was sentenced to 81 months — nearly seven years — in prison by United States District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on Wednesday, September 30. The judge said Bronfman "used her incredible wealth as means of intimidation, threat and exacting revenge on individuals who challenged NXIVM’s dogmas."
"I am troubled by evidence suggesting that Ms. Bronfman repeatedly and consistently leveraged her wealth and social status as a means of intimidating, controlling, and punishing" NXIVM's enemies, Garaufis said, according to The New York Times.
Instead of walking away from the group, Bronfman "doubled down on her support of Raniere," the judge said, referring to the leader Keith Raniere.
During the hearing — which lasted more than three hours — Judge Garaufis reprimanded Bronfman for using her fortune to protect Raniere even though she knew about the sex trafficking ring.
The court also said Bronfman needs to pay a fine of $500,000, and she needs to pay victim "Jane Doe 12" $96,605. She also must forfeit $6 million of her fortune, which is only a fraction of her wealth.
In 2019, Bronfman pleaded guilty to the charges after she was accused of recruiting individuals into NXIVM, keeping a woman captive who was in the United States illegally and using a deceased person’s identity to keep money and assets out of Raniere’s name so he could get out of paying income tax.
Prosecutors said Bronfman recruited "Jane Done 12" from Mexico to work for a NXIVM-affiliated company. She submitted documents that stated she was hiring the woman to work for her for $3,600 per month in order to get her a work visa.
However, prosecutors said Bronfman only paid "Jane Doe 12" approximately $4,000 over the course of more than a year. Bronfman told the unidentified woman she had to "earn" her visa by doing uncompensated work, but the victim thought she would be paid for her time.
Bronfman — who barely spoke during her appearance — addressed the unnamed woman, saying, "I truly hope you can forgive me and live a happy life."
The heiress also told the court she is thankful for people’s support and owned up to her behavior. "It doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes because I have made mistakes," she said.
"Defendant Bronfman twisted our immigration system to serve a reprehensible agenda, and engaged in flagrant fraud to the detriment of her victims and in the service of a corrupt endeavor," Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. "With today’s sentence, she has been held accountable for her crimes."
Bronfman is the first defendant sentenced in the investigation into NXIVM and its subgroup, DOS — a secret society made up of solely women, in which they were allegedly forced to have have sex with Raniere, 60.
"Today, Clare Bronfman is the first of many to be sentenced for the crimes she committed in furtherance of NXIVM'S objectives. While her fate in no way removes the trauma NXIVM’s victims will likely continue to suffer, it does highlight the government’s efforts to bring to justice all of those involved in a series of illegal acts carried out for the benefit of this organization," William F. Sweeney Jr., FBI assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement.
Bronfman was taken into custody after her court appearance on September 30. She will be housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. — the same facility where Raniere is. He is currently awaiting trial.