Ghislaine Maxwell, associate of Jeffrey Epstein, is arrested
By Nicole Hong, Benjamin Weiser and Mihir Zaveri
Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday on criminal charges linked to his alleged sex-trafficking operation, according to a law enforcement official.
Maxwell was accused in an indictment of helping Epstein “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” multiple girls, including one as young as 14. Maxwell also faces perjury charges.
The arrest came nearly a year after Epstein was charged in a federal indictment with sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of underage girls at his mansion in Manhattan; his estate in Palm Beach, Florida; and other locations.
Epstein hanged himself last August in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where he was jailed pending trial on the federal sex-trafficking charges.
Maxwell, a longtime confidante and companion of Epstein’s, had for years been accused of helping to procure and groom young girls for the financier, including instructing them on how to pleasure Epstein sexually.
The daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell also helped manage Epstein’s properties and introduced him to the high-profile celebrities and business executives who would form his social circle.
“They were like partners in a business,” Epstein’s house manager, Janusz Banasiak, said in a deposition.
Lawsuits have accused Maxwell of managing a network of recruiters that Epstein relied on to entice young and often financially strapped girls and women into his scheme, promising he would help them with their education and careers.
“She orchestrated the whole thing for Jeffrey,” one of Epstein’s accusers, Sarah Ransome, who sued him in 2017, told The New York Times in an interview.
The federal indictment, unsealed Thursday in the Southern District of New York, charged Maxwell with six counts: enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity, two conspiracy counts related to those charges and two counts of perjury.
The indictment described three instances between 1994 and 1997 of Maxwell befriending girls, taking them shopping and to the movies. After establishing a rapport with the girls, Maxwell would “normalize sexual abuse” by undressing in front of them or talking about sexual topics, the indictment said.
When Epstein offered to pay for travel and educational opportunities for some of the girls, Maxwell encouraged them to accept his assistance, according to the indictment.
“As a result, victims were made to feel indebted and believed that Maxwell and Epstein were trying to help them,” prosecutors said.
Epstein would then abuse the girls in various residences and other locations in New York, New Mexico, Florida and London, according to the indictment.
Maxwell would also sometimes be present when Epstein sexually abused girls, which “helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present,” according to the indictment unsealed Thursday.
In 1996, the indictment said, Maxwell gave an underage girl, who was not named, an unsolicited massage in New Mexico while the girl was topless.
Prosecutors also accused Maxwell of lying under oath in 2016, during a deposition in a lawsuit, about her role in Epstein’s operation.
During the depositions, when Maxwell was asked whether Epstein had a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages, she responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Jeffrey Pagliuca, who has been a lawyer for Maxwell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When he was charged last year, Epstein was accused of paying girls and women to give him massages while they were nude or topless, in encounters that typically included sex acts. That activity, however, was said to have occurred between 2002 and 2005. It was unclear why Maxwell was charged with actions that prosecutors said had occurred earlier.