This week, the 39 year old who is worth approximately $200 million, was arrested on federal racketeering charges for her role in operating the Nxivm sex cult. Three other high ranking members were also arrested. The arrests are part of a continuing federal investigation into the leader of the group, Keith Raniere and his right hand woman Allison Mack, the former Smallville star.
Raniere and Mack have been charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy for allegedly forcing women to join a secret master slave society in Nxivm, where the slaves were forced to give sexual pleasure to Raniere, have his initials burned into their skin and to perform labor at no charge.
In federal court in Brooklyn this week, a thin Bronfman pleaded not guilty to allegations that she was in a conspiracy with Raniere to take email passwords from his enemies, racked up tens of thousands of dollars in charges on the credit card of his deceased ex-girlfriend and engaged in money laundering to help a non citizen get into the US.
Bronfman is alleged to have been part of an inner circle of cult loyalists who committed many types of federal crimes, including identity theft, sex trafficking and obstruction of justice. All of this was done to protect and promote Raniere and Nxivm.
The heiress faces up to 20 years in federal prison if she is found guilty. This is quite a change of circumstances for a rich woman who could have done anything she wanted in life. Bronfman and her sister Sara are daughters to the deceased Canadian billionaire Edgar Bronfman, Sr., and a British barmaid who was 20 years younger than him. She was this third wife and they were the youngest of his seven children.
With a big trust fund, Sara was the party girl in her 20s and spent her time traveling all over the world. Meanwhile, Clare chose a career as an equestrian show jumper.
Sara was allegedly the first to become obsessed with Nxivm, taking a self help workshop when she was 25, after her marriage to an Irish jockey hit the rocks after seven months. Sara soon encouraged Clare to get involved, who was hoping the life coaching organization could assist her in her efforts to make the US Olympic equestrian team.
Instead, they both became devoted to Raniere, who was known as Vanguard in the group. Followers would earn colored sashes as they paid more money to get higher in the group.
According to Sara in 2003, coming from a family where she never had to work for anything, it was a moving experience to be awarded a yellow sash. It was the first thing she ever earned in her life by her own work.
Clare did make it to the Olympic trials in 2004 but gave up horse riding when Raniere told her she should do other things.
At first, the sisters were able to convince their father to take the $10,000 VIP course offered by Nxivm, but he soon fell out with the organization. He became estranged from them when he found out Clare had loaned the organization $2 million at 2.5% interest. He told Forbes that he thought the group was a cult.
The sisters ascended to the peak of the organization, in large part due to their family money rather than anything they actually did. That $2 million loan eventually turned into a loan of more than $150 million, including $66 million that Raniere lost when he bet on the commodities market. He also spent $11 million on a private jet.
Sara eventually married a businessman from Libya and moved overseas with him and her children, but Clare has stayed part of the inner circle and with Raniere.
Nxivm eventually expanded beyond its start as an executive self help group and turned into a strange and possibly illegal sex cult. Prosecutors have alleged from the start that Raniere kept a group of 15 to 20 women as a personal harem.
In 2015, the feds allege that things got very kinky when Raniere and an associate created a secret master slave sorority called The Vow. They would dupe women from Nxivm into joining and tell them it was a women’s empowerment group, but they would then be groomed as sex slaves.
Clare Bronfman has said that she was never part of that society, but federal prosecutors say that she still helped Raniere commit crimes by doing things such as using the $8 million bank account of Raniere’s former girlfriend after she died.
The judge in the case has set a $100 million for Clare Bronfman, saying that she is a major flight risk.