An heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune and three other people were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the investigation of a self-improvement organization accused of branding some of its female followers and forcing them into unwanted sex.
Clare Bronfman, a daughter of the late billionaire philanthropist and former Seagram chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr., surrendered to the FBI and pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges.
A lawyer for Bronfman, Susan Necheles, sought her release on $25 million bond. But U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis set the amount at $100 million after hearing prosecutors label her a flight risk and learning she has a net worth of roughly $200 million, including a stake in an island resort in Fiji.
The 39-year-old Bronfman, who appeared in court wearing flip-flops and a T-shirt, was to be released under house arrest later Tuesday.
Bronfman, a former competitor in international equestrian show jumping competitions, is accused in an indictment of taking a number of steps to help NXIVM’s founder and leader, Keith Raniere, exercise control over members of the upstate New York group, including identity theft, interception of electronic communications and money laundering.
Bronfman was part of an “inner circle” of loyalists who “committed a broad range of serious crimes from identity theft and obstruction of justice to sex trafficking, all to promote and protect Raniere and NXIVM,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement.