Seagram Heiress Pleads Guilty in Sex-Cult Case, Reuters Reports

(Bloomberg) -- Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram Co. fortune, pleaded guilty Friday to harboring an illegal immigrant and enabling credit-card fraud as part of an alleged sex cult that branded its victims and forced them to participate in sexual acts, Reuters reported.

Bronfman, a daughter of former Seagram Chairman Edgar M. Bronfman, entered her plea in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Reuters said. She is among women charged in connection with the investigation of multilevel marketing company Nxivm. The Albany, New York-based firm was founded by Keith Raniere, who has been apprehended in Mexico and accused of sex-trafficking and forced labor. He is being held without bail.

Seagram Heiress Pleads Guilty in Sex-Cult Case, Reuters Reports

The heiress confessed she harbored a woman who had traveled to the U.S. on a forged work visa, and helped Raniere use a dead woman’s credit card. As part of her plea on the two criminal counts, Bronfman, who said she was “truly remorseful,” agreed to forfeit $6 million, and won’t appeal any prison sentence of 27 months or less, Reuters reported.

Bronfman doesn’t have an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors, her lawyer, Mark Geragos, said after the hearing, according to Reuters.

Other Members

Actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty this month to blackmailing two women in connection with Nxivm, and Kathy Russell, another Nxivm member, pleaded guilty Friday to falsifying a visa application for another person associated with the firm, Reuters reported.

Bronfman is one of seven children, the daughter of a second-generation heir who captained Seagram’s expansion during his years leading the company. She, Russell, former Nxivm President Nancy Salzman and daughter Lauren Salzman were allegedly members of Raniere’s inner circle that recruited and groomed sexual partners for him.

Prosecutors said Nxivm operated like a pyramid scheme, charging participants thousands of dollars for courses while encouraging them to sign up for more and recruit others. Raniere created a “secret society” within the organization in 2015, known as DOS, with women serving as “slaves” overseen by “masters,” according to prosecutors.

Recruits were expected to provide “collateral” before joining -- including damaging information about friends and family, nude photographs and rights to assets -- that could be used against them if they revealed the existence of the organization or tried to leave, prosecutors said. Many “slaves” were branded on their pelvic areas with a cauterizing gun with a symbol that incorporated Raniere’s initials, according to prosecutors.

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