On Thursday morning in Bradford, England, Jeffery Epstein’s former girlfriend and confidant Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and charged by federal prosecutors for conspiring to “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” underage girls.
During a teleconference appearance in New Hampshire federal court, Maxwell did not plea guilty and waived her right to a detention hearing. The judge ordered her transfer to New York for a detention hearing there under the custody of US Marshals.
At a news conference, head of the FBI office in New York William Sweeney said that the FBI had been “discreetly keeping tabs” on Maxwell for months and had found that she had “slithered away to a gorgeous property to New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege.”
Maxwell was indicted on six criminal counts, including transportation and conspiracy to transport minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity between 1994 and 1997.
The indictment, filed under seal on June 29, states that the victims were made to travel to several of Epstein’s residences in New York, New Mexico, Florida and London.
The remaining charges include two counts of perjury for lying to a New York court during her deposition on April 22 and July 26 in 2016, in a defamation lawsuit.
In 2009, Virginia Guiffre – one of Epstein’s victims, filed a lawsuit against Epstein accusing him and Maxwell of sexually abusing her when she was 16 years old. Maxwell publicly denied the claims leading Guiffre to file a defamation lawsuit against Maxwell in 2015.
According to the indictment, when Maxwell was questioned in 2016 about Epstein’s scheme to recruit and sexually molest underage girls, she responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Acting US attorney for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Audrey Strauss said at the news conference, “Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable.”
A court date for an arraignment hearing has yet to be set. If convicted, Maxwell could face up to 35 years in prison.
In a court filing, prosecutors argued that Maxwell should be detained pending trial since she posed a “serious flight risk.”
“In short, Maxwell has three passports, large sums of money, extensive international connections, and absolutely no reason to stay in the United States and face the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.”
More than 15 bank accounts linked to Maxwell were identified by investigators. It was also stated that between 2007 and 2011, more than US$20 million had been transferred from bank accounts linked to Epstein to bank accounts linked to Maxwell.
Maxwell has been accused in multiple lawsuits of helping Epstein in recruiting, procuring and grooming underage girls for exploitation. The girls were often in need of money and Maxwell allegedly lured them in with the promise of helping them with their education and career.
“As a result, victims were made to feel indebted and believed that Maxwell and Epstein were trying to help them,” the indictment notes.
The indictment further accuses Maxwell of befriending the victims by asking personal questions. After having built a rapport with them, she would then begin to “normalize sexual abuse” by discussing sex-related topics with the victims, undressing in front of them, watching them get undressed and also being present when Epstein would sexually abuse the girls.
Based on the testimony provided by the victims, the indictment specifies that much of the sexual abuse took place after Maxwell encouraged victims to provide “sexualized massages” to Epstein, in which the victim was nude or partially nude.
“Maxwell’s presence during minor victims’ interactions with Epstein, including interactions where the minor victim was undressed or that involved sex acts with Epstein, helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present.”
The first allegation against Epstein came in 2005 by the parents of a 14-year-old girl he had abused. However, under a federal deal negotiated by the Trump administration’s former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, Epstein only served 13 months in prison after pleading guilty to two state prostitution charges in 2008.
Epstein was arrested again on July 6, 2019 on sex trafficking charges of underage girls between 2002 and 2005.
Referring to the case against Maxwell that accuses her of being an accomplice to Epstein’s crimes during the period of 1994 and 1997, Strauss said at the news conference, “This case against Ghislaine Maxwell is the prequel to the earlier case that we brought against Jeffrey Epstein.”
Epstein died by reported suicide on August 10, 2019, while awaiting trial. Following his death, Maxwell stopped making any public appearances.
On March 13, Maxwell sued Epstein’s US$600 million estate for not following through on alledged promises to pay her incurred legal fees from the lawsuits filed against her by victims.
The estate has now been set up to provide restitution to Epstein’s victims with at least 70 women expressing an interest.
An alleged victim of Epstein, Jennifer Araoz wrote in a statement to NBC News, “Today, my fellow Epstein survivors and I are able to take a breath of relief, as Maxwell’s arrest means some justice for survivors can exist. For years, I feared Epstein and his ring. Maxwell was the center of that sex trafficking ring. Now that the ring has been taken down, I know that I can’t be hurt anymore.”
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at [email protected]