NEW YORK — Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, on Wednesday was sentenced by a federal judge to 81 months in prison.
Bronfman, 41, was the first defendant to be sentenced in the NXIVM investigation, an organization that purported to market self-improvement programs through “executive success” workshops, The New York Times reported. NXIVM’s cult-like leader and founder, Keith Raniere, 60, was convicted in June 2019 of racketeering, sex trafficking, fraud and other crimes, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors in a Brooklyn courtroom had recommended a five-year sentence for Bronfman, the daughter of late Seagrams tycoon Edgar Bronfman, the Albany Times Union reported.
Several former NXIVM members made victim-impact statements to Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, the newspaper reported.
Barbara Bouchey, a former girlfriend of Raniere’s, who said she faced years of retaliation by the group after she left a decade ago, addressed the court and later called the sentence “justice served.”
“When I heard him say 81 months, I was speechless,” Bouchey told the Times Union.
Bronfman was one of five co-conspirators indicted on racketeering charges in connection with Raniere’s case, CNN reported. In April 2019, Bronfman pleaded guilty to two charges that included conspiracy to conceal and harbor people who were not in the United States legally for financial gain, and for fraudulent use of identification.
According to CNN, Bronfman has spent the last two years in home confinement.
The group, based near Albany, became known as a sex cult after testimony during Raniere’s trial revealed that the NXIVM founder had groomed a group of women to be his sexual partners, the Times reported. Raniere also held secret rituals in which women were branded with his initials, the newspaper reported.
Bronfman was not a member of the women’s group, according to the Times. However, prosecutors estimated that Bronfman spent at least $116 million on NXIVM, funding the organization’s lawsuits and securing patents for Raniere’s inventions, the newspaper reported.
Raniere and NXIVM are also known for the involvement of “Smallville” actress Allison Mack in the group’s leadership hierarchy, NBC News reported.
Mack pleaded guilty in April 2019 to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges. She has yet to be sentenced; each charge could carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.