Seagram Heir Clare Bronfman Sentenced to 81 Months in Nxivm Cult Case

Janet W. Lee
·3-min read

Clare Bronfman — benefactor of Nxivm founder Keith Raniere and Seagram liquor heir — became the first defendant sentenced in connection with the marketing company’s human-trafficking and sexual abuse case.

Charged with identity theft and immigration fraud, she was sentenced to 81 months — six years and nine months — in prison for conspiracy to conceal and harbor aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of personal identification information. The judge also imposed a $500,000 fine and a restitution of $96,605 paid to victim “Jane Doe 12.”

According the the U.S. Attorney Eastern District of New York, nine people gave victim impact statements about Bronfman’s involvement in the cult headed by Raniere and how it harmed them.

The long-awaited hearing on Wednesday was the first opportunity for survivors and former Nxivm members to speak to the judge. It was also the first major sentencing inside Brooklyn’s federal courthouse since the coronavirus-forced lockdown.

In August, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn had asked the judge to sentence Bronfman to five years in prison, arguing Raniere could not have committed the crimes without her financial support.

Bronfman’s lawyers said the defendant was unaware of the human trafficking and sexual abuse within the group. Bronfman pleaded guilty to two crimes involving identity theft and immigration fraud, and the pursuant to her plea agreement was $6 million.

One of the victims who gave a statement, Susan Dones, said at the sentencing, “I pray that you will take the claws of Keith Raniere out of you, and you will learn who Clare Bronfman really is,” according to the New York Times.

Founded in 1998, Nxivm, based in Albany, N.Y., was marketed as a workshop to support successful people find self-fulfillment. Over 18,000 members have taken its classes which costs thousands of dollars.

The company is back in the spotlight after the debut of HBO’s docuseries, “The Vow,” which chronicles how its members escaped the organization. The series, from directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, follows a number of survivors and others deeply involved to unpack the case.

Nxivm’s high-profile members included Hollywood actors, corporate executives and professional athletes. Former “Smallville” star Allison Mack, a top recruiter for the company, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges last April and is awaiting sentencing.

After Bronfman and four leaders of the organization pleaded guilty in June 2019, Raniere was the only defendant who went to trial, resulting in his conviction for racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes. The prosecutors said, Raniere had created a secret group of women who were branded with his initials and groomed to be his sexual partners.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to sentence Raniere to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27, and the sentencing for other defendants have yet to be scheduled.

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