The heiresses reportedly contributed upwards of $150 million to the cult.
Among the celebrities and socialites mentioned in HBO’s The Vow are sisters Clare and Sara Bronfman, heiresses to the multi-billion dollar Seagram fortune. According to The Hollywood Reporter, they backed the so-called self-improvement group NXIVM with upwards of $150 million before it was exposed as a cult, leading to charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. Now, they’re both paying different prices for their involvement with the organization. Clare is currently awaiting sentencing, while Sara was never charged with any crimes.
Clare pled guilty last April to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification. She also admitted to tax evasion on behalf of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere. On Sept. 14, federal prosecutors asked a judge to sentence Clare to five years in prison with a $500,000 fine, claiming that she intimidated sex-trafficking victims, exploited immigrants, and remains committed personally and financially to Raniere.
"For years, Bronfman leveraged her colossal wealth to recruit individuals, often women with no legal status in the United States, into NXIVM-affiliated organizations," prosecutors Tanya Hajjar and Mark Lesko argued, , according to the New York Post. "She secured a work-force of individuals desperate to earn a living and dependent on her and on NIXVM and [cult leader] Keith Raniere for their continued legal status in the United States."
In an Aug. 28 letter to the judge, Clare maintained her support for Raniere, according to the Times Union. "Many people, including most of my own family, believe I should disavow Keith and NXIVM, and that I have not is hard for them to understand or accept," she wrote. "However, for me, NXIVM and Keith greatly changed my life for the better." While she awaits sentencing — which has been rescheduled multiple times but is currently set for Sept. 30 — Clare is reportedly living in her Manhattan home on a $100 million bond.
Part of Clare’s attorney’s argument for delaying sentencing is that her sister, Sara, is living in Europe with husband Basit Igtet and their daughter, and she wants her to be able travel stateside for the court date. Because she was never criminally charged, Sara is still entitled to make money from NXIVM property she owns, per the Times Union. However, she agreed to give up her ownership interest in NXIVM’s Albany properties in exchange for a 20% share of their sale after federal forfeiture. Sara also has a blog where she writes about sustainability and climate change.
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