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, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, was arrested Tuesday morning on charges she participated in a widespread criminal conspiracy as part of her involvement a cult-like group whose leader has been charged with sex trafficking.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s Eastern District confirmed Bronfman had been arrested earlier Tuesday and will face arraignment in Brooklyn federal court in the afternoon with the group known as NXIVM.
Its the same group that attracted attention when actress Allison Mack was charged with sex trafficking for her involvement in April. She allegedly participated in DOS, a subset of NXIVM, according to prosecutors.
Mack was best known for her role as Chloe Sullivan on the CW’s Smallville.
Three other people — including NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman and her daughter, Lauren — were arrested in the Albany area in connection with the NXIVM case on Tuesday, according to Tyler Daniels, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Bronfman, the Salzmans and Kathy Russell will be arraigned on racketeering conspiracy charges Tuesday afternoon. Lauren Salzman will also face two other conspiracy charges.
Bronfman, who lives in the Albany area, is a longtime bankroller of NXIVM, which was founded by Salzman and Keith Raniere in the late 1990s.
Raniere was charged in March and accused of leading a secret society that promoted a master-slave relationship with its members, some of whom were groomed to have sex with him and branded in their pubic area with a logo bearing his initials.
All of the defendants are accused of participating in parts of a widespread criminal scheme that included identity theft, encouraging illegal border crossings, forced labor and altered records.
Bronfman, for example, is accused of encouraging an unnamed woman to cross into the country illegally and laundering money to support the effort. She also is accused of intercepting communications for a separate, unnamed person.
Nancy Salzman, who NXIVM members referred to as “prefect,” is accused of altering or destroying videotapes of her that would have been evidence in a civil trial NXIVM brought against Rick Ross, a cult “deprogrammer” that has long been outspoken against the group.
Raniere, Lauren Salzman and Allison Mack, meanwhile, are accused of various crimes connected with DOS, including forced labor conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy. They’re accused of forcing female members to give up damaging information about themselves for entrance into the group and holding that information over their head to prevent them from leaving.
The Times Union of Albany first reported the charges against the Salzmans and Russell, who the newspaper says was a longtime bookkeeper for NXIVM.
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