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Funding for defense in NY sex-trafficking case questioned

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Federal prosecutors are challenging how defense lawyers are being paid in the case against a self-improvement organization accused of branding female followers.

Court papers say a trust funded by Seagram's liquor fortune heiress Clare Bronfman is bankrolling the defense for her co-defendants in the sex-trafficking prosecution. They include the leader of the secretive upstate New York group, Keith Raniere, and TV actress Allison Mack.

Prosecutors say the unusual arrangement could compromise the case. A judge ordered hearings Thursday to address the potential conflict of interest.

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

The case alleges that followers of the group called NXIVM were coerced into becoming sex slaves who were branded with Raniere's initials.

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