NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune will make a court appearance Friday relating to her $100 million bond and charges involving the suspected sex cult known as NXIVM.
Clare Bronfman, 39, pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday.
An indictment also charges accused NXIVM founder Keith Raniere, actress Allison Mack and three other defendants who face multiple counts including sex trafficking.
Kathy Russell, 60; Lauren Salzman, 42; Nancy Salzman, 64; and Bronfman were arrested Tuesday on a superseding indictment charging them with racketeering conspiracy.
A federal judge last month denied bail for Raniere, who prosecutors accuse of forming a barbaric secret society within NXIVM, pronounced “Nex-i-um,” a group that over the years has attracted a following of minor celebrities and wealthy supporters.
Prosecutors told a judge that they worried Bronfman, who owns a private island in Fiji, would finance Raniere’s escape if he were released.
Prosecutors allege a sub-group branded brainwashed victims with Raniere’s initials during initiation ceremonies that turned them into his sex slaves.
The new indictment adds racketeering charges involving conspiracy to commit identity theft, seeking to get the e-mail usernames and passwords of Raniere’s critics and enemies, using credit card and banking information from one of Raniere’s sexual partners after her death in November 2016.
The indictment also includes charges of bringing a woman from Mexico to serve of Rainier’s sex slave in the United States.
“The victim was confined to a room in Clifton Park, New York, for nearly two years as punishment for having romantic feelings for a man who was not Raniere,” according to a release from the Department of Justice about the indictments. “The victim was told that if she left the room she would be sent to Mexico without any identification documents.”
In April, authorities filed criminal sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy charges against Mack and Raniere – also known as “Vanguard” – in connection NXIVM.
A complaint previously filed in United States District Court seeks to foreclose on two properties in the Town of Halfmoon in upstate New York, about 15 miles from the NXIVM group’s headquarters in Albany.
The document also gave some insight into other rituals and practices of the NXIVM group, which authorities say grew out of a previous enterprise called Executive Success Programs, Inc. (“ESP”) founded in 1998 by Raniere and Nancy Salzman.
“Every year in August, Nxians celebrate ‘Vanguard Week’ in honor of Raniere’s birthday,” the complaint said. “Nancy Salzman is referred to as ‘The Prefect’; by Nxians, and her birthday is celebrated in May with the ‘Festival of Flowers.'”
The complaint also described women’s roles in the empowerment group compared to the men, and especially Raniere as its leader.
Based on information obtained during the course of this investigation, since ESP’s founding, Raniere has maintained a rotating group of fifteen to twenty women with whom he maintains sexual relationships. These women are not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Raniere or to discuss with others their relationships with Raniere. Some of the Nxivm curriculum includes teachings about the need for men to have multiple sexual partners and the need for women to be monogamous.
As “slaves” to their “masters,” investigators say women were expected to record “collateral” videos professing true and untrue confessions about themselves and others. Investigators allege some participants were branded on their skin with a symbol that incorporated Raniere’s initials.
The complaint also described how NXIVM operated self-development courses costing $1,000 a day for five days, and used colored sashes worn by members to identify ranks of “goal levels” of recruitment, similar to how a so-called “pyramid scheme” multilevel marketing group operates.
Raniere and Mack have denied the allegations. Bronfman has said in previous public statements that she had no knowledge of wrongdoing.
The defense says the women were never abused and willingly let themselves be branded.