Billionaire heiress pleads guilty in sex cult case

An heiress to a multibillion-dollar liquor company fortune has pleaded guilty over her role in a sex trafficking case involving a cult-like group in New York. 

Clare Bronfman, 40, is the daughter of late billionaire and former chief executive of Seagram liquor company Edgar Bronfman.

She pleaded guilty on Friday to two charges, including harbouring an illegal immigrant and credit card fraud.

The charges relate to Ms Bronfman’s executive board role in the NXIVM group, a secretive collective that pitched itself as a self-help organisation for women, but was described by investigating authorities as a “racketeering conspiracy” and a “pyramid organisation”.

Its top-level members are accused of enabling a cult-like society inside NXIVM, with a pool of sex slaves for its leader, 58-year-old Keith Raniere.

Some of the women were also branded with Mr Raniere’s initials as an initiation ritual, prosecutors have said.

Clare Bronfman pleaded guilty to two charges on Friday over her role in the NXIVM group
Image: Bronfman pleaded guilty to two charges over her role in the NXIVM group

Speaking on Friday, Ms Bronfman said she had wanted to do “good in the world and help people”, and apologised for taking advantage of her family’s privilege.

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“Your honour, I was afforded a great gift by my grandfather and father,” she 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 her plea agreement, Ms Bronfman will pay a $6 million (£4.6 million) penalty of her estimated $200 million (£153 million) fortune.

She will be sentenced on 25 July, and faces more than two years in prison.

Ms Bronfman is the latest of five NXIVM members to plead guilty in the controversial case.

Television actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to blackmail charges earlier this month
Image: TV actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to blackmail charges earlier this month

Earlier this month, Smallville actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty to blackmailing two women.

The group’s former bookkeeper, Kathy Russell, also pleaded guilty on Friday over one charge of fraud, while former NXIVM president, Nancy Salzman, and her daughter Lauren pleaded guilty in March.

Following the string of guilty pleas, Mr Raniere will stand trial alone.

He faces charges of forced labour, sex trafficking, sexually exploiting a minor and producing child pornography.

His trial begins on 7 May.

Source: SKY NEWS

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