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Liquor heiress handed stunning sentence for role in NXIVM sex cult

Seagram’s liquor heiress and NXIVM cult member Clare Bronfman was sentenced today to six years and nine months in prison for her role in the upstate cult – a far harsher sentence than even prosecutors had asked for.The daughter of late Canadian billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr. pleaded guilty last year to charges related to the…

Seagram’s liquor heiress and NXIVM cult member Clare Bronfman was sentenced today to six years and nine months in prison for her role in the upstate cult – a far harsher sentence than even prosecutors had asked for.

The daughter of late Canadian billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr. pleaded guilty last year to charges related to the notorious group and its sex-trafficking leader, Keith Raniere.

“She used her incredible wealth as a means of intimidation, threat and exacting revenge on individuals who challenged its (NXIVM) dogmas,” Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis said as he handed down the sentence in Brooklyn federal court.

Bronfman, 41, faced 30 months behind bars under federal sentencing guidelines for charges of conspiracy to conceal and harbour an illegal alien for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification, although prosecutors had sought twice that, calling for five years.

RELATED: What is NXIVM?

But Judge Garaufis ultimately delivered an even stiffer punishment – sending her to jail for 81 months and ordering her to pay a $US500,000 ($A697,500) fine.

The heiress’ eyes widened as she received the news, while at least one victim put her hands together in a motion of thanks to the judge.

Bronfman was then escorted out of the courtroom by three US Marshals, past six victims who had earlier told the court she is a “dangerous megalomaniac” and a “predator”.

Prior to being sentenced, Bronfman read a statement to the court in which she admitted to making “mistakes”, while thanking her fans.

“I’m immensely grateful and privileged that people all over the world are praying for me because they know my goodness,” she said.

“It doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes, I have made mistakes …”

Prosecutors applauded the harsh sentence, with Acting US Attorney Seth DuCharme lauding it as “another very important step in bringing justice to the victims of the NXIVM case”.

Bronfman is the first person to be sentenced in the case. Five others, including the convicted Raniere and former Smallville TV actress Allison Mack, who pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges, are still awaiting their fates.

A gripping HBO documentary The Vow about the case is currently streaming new episodes weekly on Foxtel.

RELATED: Dynasty star opens up about NXIVM ordeal

As a high-level member of NXIVM, Bronfman recruited young women into the country illegally, prosecutors said.

She made one of the women her personal assistant, and would instruct her by e-mail on how to make oatmeal for her dogs, court papers said.

Bronfman, once a top equestrian with her sights set on the Olympics, also recruited a wannabe professional horserider into NXIVM – but the woman was eventually groomed for Raniere’s perverted sexual pleasure, according to court testimony.

The woman told the court during Raniere’s trial that she became a “slave” in a secret subgroup of NXIVM called DOS – then was ordered to “seduce” Raniere.

Bronfman used some of her massive $US210 million ($A293,000) fortune to fund NXIVM, as well as silence Raniere’s victims and perceived enemies of NXIVM, according to court papers.

As part of her plea deal with prosecutors, she agreed to forfeit $US6 million ($A8.4 million).

Bronfman’s lawyers had been seeking three years’ probation for her, noting in a filing on Monday that she may have a serious liver disorder. They denied she knew anything about DOS.

Her lawyers, Ron Sullivan and Duncan Levin, claimed in court papers that the feds were “seeking to lay the blame for DOS at (her) feet because she has a large cheque book”.

Some of Raniere’s victims testified at his trial that they were starved, branded like cattle with his initials and forced to have sex with him. If they refused, they were whipped and subjected to other humiliating punishments, according to trial testimony.

Raniere, 60, was found guilty of charges including racketeering and sex-trafficking last year. He faces up to life in prison when sentenced next month.

Bronfman’s lawyers had said in court papers their client still “stands by both the organisation and Raniere for the tremendous good they did for thousands of people”.

Mack, who was Raniere’s primary henchwoman and served as one of DOS’s masters, pleaded guilty to racketeering, and is yet to be sentenced.

NXIVM president Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, and the organisation’s bookkeeper Kathy Russell each copped to charges ranging from racketeering to visa fraud.

This article originally appeared on the NY Post and was reproduced with permission

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