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Bronfman Heiress Pleads Guilty in Sex Cult Case

'I am truly sorry,' she tells court
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 20, 2019 8:35 AM CDT
Updated Apr 20, 2019 9:35 AM CDT
Kathy Russell, center, arrives at court in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Friday.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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(Newser) – An heiress pleaded guilty Friday in a sensational case accusing a cult-like upstate New York group of creating a secret harem of sex slaves for the group's spiritual leader. Clare Bronfman admitted in federal court in Brooklyn that she harbored someone who was living in the US illegally for unpaid "labor and services," the AP reports, and that she committed credit card fraud on behalf of Keith Raniere, the leader of a group called NXIVM. Bronfman, 40, daughter of the late billionaire philanthropist and former Seagram Chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr., told the judge that she had wanted to help people through NXIVM but ended up dishonoring her family. "Your honor, I was afforded a great gift by my grandfather and father," Bronfman said. "With the gift, comes immense privilege and more importantly, tremendous responsibility. It does not come with an ability to break the law." She added: "For this, I am truly sorry."

As part of a agreement, Bronfman will forfeit $6 million of a fortune prosecutors say is worth $200 million. She faces more than two years in prison at sentencing July 25. The plea means Bronfman will avoid going to trial next month with Raniere, who's facing conspiracy charges alleging that his inner circle created a secret society of women who were forced to have sex with him. Prosecutors say some of the women were branded with his initials in their initiation. An accountant for the group, Kathy Russell, also pleaded guilty Friday to a fraud charge. She's the fourth NXIVM insider besides Bronfman to plead guilty. One is Allison Mack, an actress on the TV series Smallville. With the two guilty pleas Friday, Raniere will face a jury by himself. Defense attorneys have insisted any relationships between their client and the women were consensual. (Allison Mack admitted to her role in NXIVM.)

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