May 30, 2018

Who is the heiress mentioned in the NXIVM sex cult court documents?

Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM, in 2009.Patrick Dodson via The New York Times
She has spent over $150 million establishing the cult and paying for numerous lawsuits, while threatening former members to remain silent
Sadaf Ahsan
National Post
May 29, 2018

It wasn’t until 2010 that rumblings began to spread that Keith Raniere’s “self-help organization” — which goes by the name NXIVM and was founded in 1998 — might actually be a sex cult. The allegations hit the mainstream shortly before a Vanity Fair profile of Clare and Sara Bronfman, heiresses to the Seagram empire, claimed the sisters spent millions to financially back NXIVM.

Vanity Fair writer Suzanna Andrews described the Bronfmans emptying their family trust funds as a “massive gutting” in 2010. Unbeknownst to their father Edgar Bronfman, “as much as $150 million was taken out of the Bronfmans’ trusts and bank accounts, including $66 million allegedly used to cover Raniere’s failed bets in the commodities market, $30 million to buy real estate in Los Angeles and around Albany, $11 million for a 22-seat, two-engine Canadair CL-600 jet, and millions more to support a barrage of lawsuits across the country against NXIVM’s enemies.”

This was several years before the New York Times’ damning exposé on NXIVM, published in October 2017, which formally accused the cult of sex trafficking through DOS, its “sorority” subset. Following the Times story, which mentioned the Bronfmans were members of NXIVM, Clare publicly denied being a member of DOS in a blog post on her website, but added that she supports Raniere and does not believe he has “abused” anyone.

In March of this year, however, Raniere was arrested in Mexico for sex trafficking, sex-trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. Just weeks later, Canadian actress Allison Mack was also arrested under the same charges. While Mack was eventually released on a $5-million bond and is currently living under house arrest, Raniere was denied bail. Both pleaded not-guilty to all counts and are awaiting trial.

In Mack’s court filings, there are several mentions of an “heiress” who ran off to Mexico with Raniere after the New York Times story was published and before his arrest. She is described as an executive member of his organization who has been financially supporting Raniere and the cult itself, spending millions on lawsuits to silence former members and those who have criticized the cult. The court documents go on to suggest that “the heiress” attempted to intimidate former NXIVM members who could be used as witnesses in the case against Raniere, by threatening to publish some of the “collateral” new members have to offer upon joining the cult. This collateral includes personal, potentially “damaging” documents regarding them and/or their family members, including sexually explicit photos.

Former NXIVM publicist Frank Parlato, in an April interview with Vice, claims that the heiress in question is Clare Bronfman. He says that she has risen to the top of the organization following Raniere and Mack’s arrests, and accuses Clare of leading “an estimated dozen or more ‘slaves’ spread between New York and Toronto.”

According to additional court documents, via The Daily Beast, “The Heiress has made multiple attempts to have criminal charges brought against a former DOS slave who has discussed her experience in the media.” Parlato believes this to be actress Sarah Edmondson, a former NXIVM member and recruiter for DOS, who recently came forward to share her experience.

Edmondson is featured in the new A&E series Cults and Extreme Belief. Referring to the collateral mentioned in the court filings, in the show’s premiere episode, Edmondson says, “Keith really thought that this whole collateral thing would just stop people from talking. And it didn’t. I’m not going to stop talking about it until Keith is held responsible. I believe that Keith’s arrest is the beginning of the end for NXIVM. I would say that he messed with the wrong person, and that for such a ‘brilliant’ man he made a big mistake. He really underestimated me.”

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