• The Star Staff

Ghislaine Maxwell charged with sex trafficking of 14-year-old girl

By Benjamin Weiser

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, was charged Monday for the first time with sex-trafficking of a minor, as federal prosecutors accused her of grooming a 14-year-old girl to engage in sexual acts with Epstein and later paying her.

A new federal indictment filed in Manhattan charged that on multiple occasions between 2001 and 2004, the girl provided nude massages to Epstein at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, during which he engaged in sex acts with her.

The new charges against Maxwell go further than those contained in an earlier indictment that accused her of helping Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately sexually abuse girls, but did not include sex-trafficking allegations.

The new indictment says that after the girl provided Epstein with the massages, Maxwell or others who worked for him paid the girl hundreds of dollars in cash.

A lawyer for Maxwell did not respond to a request for comment on the new charges.

The indictment comes almost nine months after Maxwell, 59, once a fixture on New York’s social scene, was arrested in New Hampshire on charges that she had lured underage girls — one as young as 14 — into Epstein’s orbit, and contributed to his abuse of them.

The indictment issued Monday cites an additional 14-year-old girl who is identified only as Minor Victim-4.

Maxwell has been jailed since her arrest last year and is awaiting a trial, scheduled for July, in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. She pleaded not guilty to the original charges.

The new indictment also says Epstein and Maxwell each encouraged the girl to recruit other young women to provide sexualized massages to Epstein.

In response, the indictment says, the girl brought multiple women and girls to provide erotic massages for Epstein, and both she and the people she recruited were paid hundreds of dollars in cash.

Epstein, 66, hanged himself in his cell at a jail in Manhattan in August 2019, a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges. An indictment said Epstein had recruited dozens of minor girls to engage in sex acts with him at his mansion in Manhattan and the Palm Beach estate, after which he paid them hundreds of dollars in cash.

Prosecutors, in expanding their case against Maxwell, not only added two new counts — sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking conspiracy — but they also broadened the time period of the allegations they have made.

The original indictment alleged crimes by Maxwell from 1994-97, leading her lawyers to argue, as they unsuccessfully sought her release on bail, that it was “inherently more difficult to prosecute cases relating to decades-old conduct.” They said that helped to “call into question the strength of the government’s case.”

The sex trafficking of Minor Victim-4 occurred between 2001-04, the new indictment says.

It adds that Maxwell first met the 14-year-old girl at the Palm Beach residence and over the next three years interacted there with her frequently, while knowing she was a minor.

The government made it clear in its original indictment that the process of grooming victims for sexual activity — the seemingly innocuous behavior by a predator to break down a victim’s barriers to abusive conduct — would be a central part of its case against Maxwell.

The new indictment offered more details on how the government might support that accusation against Maxwell.

Describing how she groomed the girl, the indictment said Maxwell asked her about her family and other aspects of her life, and “sought to normalize inappropriate and abusive conduct.”

Maxwell also discussed sexual topics in front of the girl and was present when the girl was nude in the massage room of the Palm Beach residence, the indictment said.

It also said that at one point, Epstein and Maxwell invited the girl to travel with Epstein and offered to help her obtain a passport, but she declined.

But frequently during the period of the sex trafficking, Maxwell and others who were employed by Epstein sent the girl presents, including lingerie.

In a letter to the judge, Alison J. Nathan, that accompanied the new indictment, the office of Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said its investigation was continuing but that if Maxwell’s trial remains set for July, as scheduled, the government did not intend to seek further indictments in the case.

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