Seagram whisky heiress Clare Bronfman pleads guilty to role in Nxivm 'sex cult'

Rozina Sabur
Clare Bronfman (right) pleaded guilty on two counts - AP

American whisky heiress Clare Bronfman has pleaded guilty to her role in the secretive "sex cult" Nxivm which allegedly trafficked women. 

Bronfman, the 40-year-old heir to the Seagram alcohol fortune, was accused of using her wealth to fund the suspected sex cult to the tune of more than  $100 million (£77m). 

She had been due to stand trial on May 7, but on Friday she pleaded guilty to two counts - conspiracy to conceal and harbour illegal immigrants for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification. 

The suspected cult leader, Keith Raniere, now stands alone as a defendant  in the case on charges of sex trafficking and forced labour conspiracy. 

The 58-year-old founded Nxivm, which offered “executive success programmes” and self-help therapies, wielded immense power over the estimated 16,000 people who flocked to his seminars.

Bronfman will be sentenced in July Credit: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Initiation rites allegedly included the branding of its members with the founder's initials. 

He was arrested in Mexico last year and is accused of creating a secret society called "DOS," of more than a dozen women "slaves" and "masters"  with him - the sole man - at the top. 

He has denied the charges against him and insisted the alleged sexual  relationships with women were consensual. 

Bronfman will be sentenced on July 25. She could face up to 25 years in  prison but the government's sentencing guidelines suggest she will serve up to just 27 months. 

The 40-year-old philanthropist and former equestrian showjumper is the daughter of Edgar Bronfman, the late Canadian chairman of liquor giant Seagram whose net worth was estimated at $2.6 billion (£2 billion). 

She was a member of Nxivm's executive board and is said to have used her wealth to finance court summons against presumed enemies, fake identities to access data and to help Mr Raniere use the credit card of a deceased  ex-mistress.

Bronfman was the fifth person to plead guilty in the case. Earlier this month Allison Mack, an actress in the "Smallville" television series, pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy for allegedly recruiting women to the purported mentorship group, whom US prosecutors say were  forced to have sex with its leader. 

Lauren Salzman, the daughter of a Nxivm co-founder, and Kathy Russell, the group’s bookkeeper, have also pleaded guilty for their roles in the group.