Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman had a dramatic day in court Wednesday where the accused NXIVM sex-cult financier fainted in response to being asked if she'd secretly retained lawyer Michael Avenatti.
BREAKING: Seagrams heiress Clare Bronfman faints in court after judge seems to suggest that Michael Avenatti was secretly representing her, trying to negotiate deal with US attorney’s office in NXIVM case. An ambulance has been called.— Emily Saul (@Emily_Saul_) March 27, 2019
The 39-year-old daughter of late Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman (whose funeral Hillary Clinton spoke at) pleaded not guilty last July to charges of racketeering, money laundering and identity theft for NXIVM - a secretive multi-level marketing company founded by Keith Raniere, who was arrested last March along with Smallville actress Allison Mack on federal charges which include sex trafficking, forced labor, wire fraud conspiracy, human trafficking and other counts.
Mack allegedly procured women for Raniere - who required that prospective "slaves" upload compromising collateral into a Dropbox account. One such recruit-turned-coach was India Oxenberg - daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg, who met with prosecutors in New York in late 2017 to present evidence against Raniere.
According to a 2010 Vanity Fair report, Clare and her sister Sara Bronfman, who joined NXIVM in 2002, contributed approximately $150 million of their trust fund to NXIVM, while Claire bought 80% of Wakaya island off the coast of Fiji for $47 million in 2016.
[I]n the last six years 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. Much of it was spent, according to court filings, as Sara and Clare Bronfman allegedly worked to conceal the extent of their spending from their 81-year-old father and the Bronfman-family trustees. -Vanity Fair
Last July Clare was charged with a broad range of crimes connected to the cult's operation, and is currently being represented by attorney Mark Geragos - identified by the Wall Street Journal this week as a co-conspirator in an alleged scheme by Michael Avenatti to extort $20 million from Nike. Avenatti was arrested on Monday and released on a $300,000 personal recognizance bond.
NXIVM's Clinton connection
Raniere was run out of Arkansas in the '90s by then-Governor Bill Clinton's attorney general on charges of fraud and business deception. After paying fines, Raniere and NXIVM executives would go on to donate $29,900 to Hillary Clinton's 2006 presidential campaign a decade later. Meanwhile, at least three NXIVM officials are "invitation-only" members of the Clinton Global Initiative, according to the New York Post.
Most recently, Raniere was accused of having sex with children and producing kiddie porn, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Raniere, 58, is accused of having a child “engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing one or more visual depictions of such conduct, which visual depictions were produced and transmitted,” reads a new indictment released Wednesday.
Raniere’s co-defendants, “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman and Kathy Russell were allegedly aware of his predilection for predation, and even facilitated it, according to prosecutors, who have now charged them for that conduct under a racketeering count.
His co-defendants “were aware of and facilitated Raniere’s sexual relationships with two underage victims: (1) a fifteen-year-old girl who was employed by Nancy Salzman and who – ten years later – became Raniere’s first-line ‘slave’ in DOS,” the filing reads. -New York Post
Both Mack and Bromfman are seeking a separate trial in the wake of the pedophilia charges. Mack's attorneys argued in a recent filing that "The Court should not allow evidence of Child Exploitation Acts before any jury that will judge Ms. Mack. As an initial matter, any evidence of the alleged Child Exploitation Acts would highly and unfairly prejudice Ms. Mack, who has no connection whatsoever to these new predicate acts or the substantive counts against Raniere," adding "Given the well-recognized inflammatory effect of such allegations, the Court should sever Ms. Mack from Raniere and order a separate trial."
Experts in branding
While NXIVM describes itself as a self-help business that has helped thousands of people "reach their potential" through various courses, the women’s-only "inner sanctum" led by Raniere is known as 'DOS', which whistleblower Frank Parlato said stands for “dominus obsequious sororium" - Latin for “master over the slave women”. Once they are a member - or “slave” - they are allegedly encouraged to recruit new women into their “slave pods”, stop dating, and be on call 24 hours a day after being branded with Raniere's initials below the hip using a cauterizing iron.
We wonder if Michael Avenatti knows anyone with an NXVIM scar?