Judge denies NXIVM head's bid for bail and orders review of legal payments

New York Daily News/December 6, 2018

By Marco Poggio and Reuven Blau

The Seagram’s heiress on the board of an accused sex cult has been paying the legal bills of the group’s leader and several witnesses.

Clare Bronfman is assisting NXVIM founder Keith Raniere pay to fight federal sex-trafficking charges through an irrevocable trust fund, his lawyer, Marc Agnifilo said during a court hearing Thursday.

Prosecutors contend her financing creates a conflict of interest.

They pointed out that one of her lawyers strongly recommended a witnesses in the case plead the fifth when testifying before a grand jury.

Prosecutors want the judge to hold a hearing to review the issue.

Agnifilo argued there was no need for any review into the trust fund’s legal payments.

“We’ve been an open book,” Agnifilo said. “There’s no mystery in this.”

Brooklyn federal judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered a “Curcio hearing” where he can question the defendants and witnesses to make sure they understand the possible conflict of interest.

Raniere, 57, founded the sex cult and coerced female members into acting as his sex slaves, prosecutors say. The cult leader went as far as branding many of the women with his initials, court papers say.

He also allegedly had sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 46, according to a new court filing. Additionally, prosecutors say he forced one woman who refused to have sex with him to remain in a bedroom for nearly two years.

Former “Smallville” actress Allison Mack, 35, is a co-defendant who prosecutors say recruited women. Her lawyer argues she’s innocent and had no idea the women would be bullied into having sex with Raniere.

Raniere contends the group is a for-profit self-help organization based in Albany.

All told, six people, including Bronfman, have been charged in the criminal case.

On Wednesday, Garufis denied Raniere’s latest request for bail, concluding he is a flight risk.

Raniere has argued the trust can pay for armed guards to watch him if he posts the $10 million he needs to get out of custody.

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