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Clare Bronfman, heiress to Seagram’s, to plead guilty in deal

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Toni Natalie speaks about her experience when introduced to Keith Raniere, the founder of the alleged cult NXIVM. Video by Carlos Ortiz.
Carlos Ortiz

ALBANY, N.Y. – Clare Bronfman, a high-ranking member of the NXIVM alleged cult, is set to take a plea deal Friday along with its longtime bookkeeper.

Federal prosecutors signaled Friday that Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, is expected to plead guilty to certain charges under an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn.

Also set to plead guilty is Kathy Russell, NXIVM’s longtime bookkeeper and high-ranking member.

Prosecutors did not yet reveal what the two would plead guilty to.

Bronfman, 40, was charged in July 2018 with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit identity theft. Russell was charged with racketeering conspiracy.

They are the latest NXIVM players to take plea deals.

Already pleaded guilty

The only one who would be left for trial would be NXIVM’s leader Keith Raniere. He is set for trial next month.

Actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty April 8 to federal racketeering charges. 

Nancy Salzman, a NXIVM co-founder and president, pleaded guilty last month to racketeering conspiracy, confessing to stealing email addresses and passwords of NXIVM critics and altering a tape used in a lawsuit.

Her daughter, Lauren Salzman, has also pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy last month.

More: Allison Mack of ‘Smallville’ pleads guilty in alleged NXIVM sex cult case

More: NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman pleads guilty in sex-cult case

Charges against Bronfman

After Bronfman’s arrest, her attorney Susan Necheles proclaimed Bronfman’s innocence.

“NXIVM was not a criminal enterprise but instead was an organization that helped thousands of people,” the statement read.

“The charges against Clare are the result of government overreaching and charging an individual with crimes just because the government disagrees with some beliefs taught by NXIVM.”

There was no immediate comment from Necheles on Friday.

Bronfman had long bankrolled Raniere leadership of NXIVM, according to prosecutors. 

She is accused of helping to lead what was allegedly a criminal enterprise that included identity theft and money laundering.

For example, prosecutors accused Bronfman of working to obtain usernames and passwords of some of NXIVM’s enemies so Raniere and others could monitor them, according to court records.

After her arrest, Bronfman was released on $100 million bond and was under home confinement.

More: The charges against NXIVM’s Keith Raniere, Allison Mack and Clare Bronfman, explained

More: HBO to detail ‘devastating abuse’ in explosive documentary on NXIVM sex cult

Follow Joseph Spector on Twitter: @GannettAlbany

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