Seagram’s liquor heiress Clare Bronfman pleaded guilty on Friday in a widely publicized case accusing a cult-like upstate New York group of creating a secret harem of sex slaves for the group’s self-anointed spiritual leader.
Donning a beige blouse and blue pants, along with a blue and white scarf, Bronfman, 40, admitted in her plea in federal court in Brooklyn that she harbored someone who was living in the U.S. illegally for unpaid “labor and services” and that she committed credit card fraud on behalf of Keith Raniere, the spiritual leader of the group NXIVM.
The 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 plea agreement, Bronfman agreed to forfeit $6 million in addition to paying restitution to unnamed victims. She faces up to 27 months in prison at her sentencing scheduled for July 25.
Last week, former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty in the same Brooklyn federal court to racketeering charges in relation to the cultlike group. Mack entered her plea shortly before jury selection was scheduled to start.
The plea means Bronfman and Mack will avoid going to trial early next month with Raniere, who is facing conspiracy charges alleging that his inner circle of loyalists created a secret society of women who were forced to have unwanted sex with him. Prosecutors say some of the women were branded with his initials as part of their initiation.
According to prosecutors, Bronfman had long been affiliated with NXIVM — giving away tens of millions of dollars of her fortune to bankroll Raniere and his program of intense self-improvement classes. She also paid for lawyers to defend the group against a lawsuit brought by its critics.
Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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