Toni Natalie speaks about her experience when introduced to Keith Raniere, the founder of the alleged cult NXIVM. Video by Carlos Ortiz.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Clare Bronfman, a high-ranking member of the NXIVM alleged cult, took a plea deal Friday along with its longtime bookkeeper.
Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and a count of fraudulent use of identification.
She is expected to face 21 months to 27 months in prison and pay $6 million in restitution.
Kathy Russell, NXIVM’s longtime bookkeeper and a high-ranking member, also pleaded guilty Friday in the case.
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.
NXIVM was a self-help organization based in the Albany area that was the subject of international headlines after Raniere and his inner circle were arrested, accused of overseeing a criminal operation in which some women followers were branded with Raniere’s initials and groomed for his sexual pleasure.
Among those charged were actress Allison Mack, who 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.
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’s leadership of NXIVM, according to prosecutors.
She was 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.
Follow Joseph Spector on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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