Seagram liquor heiress and former equestrian, Clare Bronfman, has pleaded guilty to being involved in a New York sex cult group called Nxivm, which would label its members “slaves” until they recruited new members for the group, according to The Hill.
The 40-year-old inheritor of a massive alcohol fortune pleaded guilty to two counts — conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal immigrants for financial gain, and fraudulent use of identification, reports BBC. Along with her, another woman named Kathy Russell also pleaded guilty to a visa fraud charge.
According to the reports, Bronfman spent $100 million to fund the so-called self-help group called Nxivm, formed in 1998 as a community of people interested in making the world a better place. But prosecutors have described the activities within the group as “cult-like” with accusations that its leader, Keith Raniere, oversaw a “slave and master” system within the group.
The Seagram liquor heiress is the fifth person out of the six people accused of being involved in the trafficking ring to have pleaded guilty, with only its leader, Raniere, set to go to trial next month. Smallville actress Allison Mack also pleaded guilty to racketeering charges earlier this month and is currently awaiting sentencing.
Bronfman said she that had joined the Nxivm because of its lofty aspirations and was deeply “remorseful” for her actions.
“I was afforded a great gift by my grandfather and father. With the gift comes immense privilege, and more importantly, tremendous responsibility,” Bronfman reportedly said in court.
“It does not come with an ability to break the law, it comes with a greater responsibility to uphold it. I failed to uphold the following laws set forth by this country, and for that I am truly remorseful.”
According to prosecutors, Nxivm followed a pyramid structure wherein members paid money to rise within its ranks. The group’s website has called off its events citing the “extraordinary circumstances facing the company at this time.”
While group leader Raniere faces sex trafficking and forced labor charges, Clare Bronfman, the daughter of Canadian liquor baron Edgar Bronfman, served on Nxivm’s executive board. Prosecutors allege that the money she gave to the group paid for forging identities and bringing cases against Raniere’s and the group’s perceived enemies.
There have also been suggestions that the female recruits in the group were branded with Raniere’s initials and were expected to have sex with him as a rite of passage. Bronfman could face up to 25 years in prison but her sentencing guidelines could lead to a much shorter jail-time, amounting to only 27 months.
[The featured image is of Smallville actress Allison Mack and not Clare Bronfman.]