Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman was among four women charged with racketeering and other crimes in connection with the sex cult case brought against Keith Raniere and former “Smallville” star Allison Mack.
The indictments unsealed on Tuesday added 10 counts of racketeering to the federal sex trafficking charges already pending against Raniere and Mack. Bronfman and three others — Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, and Kathy Russell — were charged with racketeering, forced labor, money laundering, identity theft, and wire fraud. The four women were scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday, Bronfman in Brooklyn and the Salzmans and Russell in Albany, N.Y. They face as much as 20 years in prison if convicted for racketeering, and a minimum sentence of 15 years for identity theft.
Raniere and Mack face additional charges of racketeering along with the sex trafficking counts they were originally charged with in April. Raniere has been in jail since March. Mack was released April 24 on $5 million bond.
Bronfman attorney Susan Necheles told the New York Times that her client “did nothing wrong” and defended Bronfman’s participation in Nxivm.
“Nxivm was not a criminal enterprise but instead was an organization that helped thousands of people, Necheles told the Times. “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 and held by Clare.”
Bronfman pleaded not guilty and was released on $100 million bond with home detention and an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor her movements. Russell pleaded not guilty and was released on $25,000 bond. Nancy Salzman and Lauren Salzman pleaded not guilty and were granted release on $5 million bond apiece, although the two were unable to meet the conditions of those bonds and may not be released Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s Eastern District.
“For over a decade, Keith Raniere was the leader of a racketeering conspiracy in which he and members of his inner circle committed a broad range of serious crimes from identity theft and obstruction of justice to sex trafficking, all to promote and protect Raniere and NXIVM,” stated U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “This Office and the FBI will continue to investigate and prosecute those who prey on others to such destructive effect.”
The indictment paints a grim picture of the women participating in a conspiracy to recruit eight women — identified in the indictment and Jane Does — to work and engage in sex acts to benefit Raniere, the leader of NXIVM, a self-help and personal development program that prosecutors say was a front for a sex cult in which Mack was also a leader. Bronfman and Raniere are accused of hacking into email accounts of people perceived to be “enemies” of Raniere and monitoring their correspondence.
“As alleged, this long-running conspiracy crossed multiple avenues of criminal activity, which included, among other things, electronic monitoring; identity theft; extortion; victim smuggling; and illegal trafficking of a victim after a period of unlawful confinement. The details of these alleged crimes become more and more grim as we continue to dig deeper into the conduct of this organization and its intended mission,” said FBI assistant director-in-charge William Sweeney.
Bronfman, 39, an heiress to the Seagram spirits empire, has reportedly been providing Raniere with financial support and other assistance for years. The allegations surrounding NXIVM, Raniere, and Mack exploded into public view in April when prosecutors in New York’s Eastern District arrested Raniere, 57, and Mack, 35. Nancy Salzman, 64, served as president of Raniere’s organization. Russell, 60, was its bookkeeper from 2002 to 2014, according to the indictment.
Bronfman and Raniere are also accused of committing money laundering, identity theft, and bringing at least one of the Jane Does into the U.S. illegally to work and engage in sex acts on behalf of a secret organization of women known as the Vanguard. Mack was a leader of that group. Prosecutors say recruits into Vanguard were coerced into giving up sensitive items and information about themselves that could be used as blackmail later on.
The forced labor and extortion charges in connection with the Jane Does accuse the defendants of obtaining “assets, credit card authorizations, jewelry, and sexually explicit photographs and videos,” according to the indictment, of the women in order to “instill in her a fear that, if the property were not so delivered, Mack and others would (1) expose a secret and publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject one or more persons to hatred, contempt and ridicule; and (2) perform an act which would not in itself materially benefit Mack, but which was calculated to harm one or more persons materially with respect to their health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation and personal relationships.”
Prosecutors say Bronfman committed financial fraud involving the credit card of a former Raniere sex partner who died in 2016. The pair conspired to charge thousands of dollars worth of clothing and other items for the mother of one of Raniere’s children and chiropractic treatments for Raniere. The dead woman’s identity was also used to bring another woman into the U.S. from Canada.
Raniere and Lauren Salzman, 42, are accused of conspiring to confine a former sex partner of Raniere’s in a small room for two years “as punishment for having romantic feelings for a man who was not Raniere,” prosecutors said. The woman was eventually driven to Mexico without any identification documents.
Bronfman and Lauren Salzman served on the executive board of NXIVM from 2009 through early 2018. Nancy Salzman served as president and was known as “prefect” according to the indictment. Salzman is also charged with destroying videos and records in 2008 and again in March 2018 to keep them out of the hands of attorneys in a lawsuit filed by a former NXIVM participant.