Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman given harsher sentence in NXIVM case than prosecutors asked for
Clare Bronfman, heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, was sentenced to 81 months in prison Wednesday — more than the 60-month sentence prosecutors had recommended.
CNN has reached out to attorneys for Bronfman for comment on the sentence.
Bronfman, 41, is the first member of NXIVM, a company that marketed self-improvement programs, to be sentenced in the federal case that resulted in the cult-like group’s founder Keith Raniere being convicted of sex trafficking, racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child and human trafficking charges.
She was seen entering federal court in Brooklyn wearing a dark floral mask and clutching the hand of one of her attorneys.
Bronfman was one of five co-conspirators indicted on racketeering charges in connection with Raniere’s case, but her sentence was in connection with two charges she pleaded guilty to in April 2019 which included conspiracy to conceal and harbour people who were not in the U.S. legally for financial gain, as well as fraudulent use of identification. Bronfman has spent the last two years in home confinement.
Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced the sentence in a press release. “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,” DuCharme said in a statement. “With today’s sentence, she has been held accountable for her crimes.”
The four other co-defendants in the case, who were high-ranking members of the organization, pleaded guilty last year to racketeering charges in connection with the case.
While Bronfman pleaded guilty to two charges, she said she was not aware of the allegations of abuse surrounding a secret, all-female group within NXIVM known as DOS.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in August, Bronfman said she was not involved with DOS, where members claimed they were forced to give damaging confessions, nude photos and potentially embarrassing information as “collateral” to maintain their vow of secrecy to the group. Women recruited into the group were known as “slaves” and each had “masters,” prosecutors said. Some former members of the group testified at Raniere’s trial that they were directed to have sex with Raniere, send him nude photos, and were even branded with his initials on their pelvic areas.
“I did not and do not support anyone abusing or using violence towards anyone. I just tried to do what I thought was best to honor my role as a leader in NXIVM and a good friend,” Bronfman said in her letter.
Despite Raniere’s conviction, Bronfman said in her letter to the judge that she will not disavow Raniere or NXIVM.
“Many people, including most of my own family, believe I should disavow Keith and NXIVM, and that I have not is hard for them to understand or accept,” Bronfman wrote in her letter. “However, for me, NXIVM and Keith greatly changed my life for the better.”
Bronfman said in her letter that Raniere’s self-improvement teachings helped her overcome “patterns of self-loathing, insecurities, shame and fears” and that through NXIVM, she was able to find a community of friends that became like family to her.