Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend de Grisogono Sponsors The 2005 Wall Street Concert Series Benefitting Wall Street Rising, with a Performance by Rod Stewart at Cipriani Wall Street on March 15, 2005 in New York City.
Joe Schildhorn | Patrick McMullan | Getty Images
The FBI arrested Jeffrey Epstein’s long-time friend Ghislaine Maxwell in New Hampshire on Thursday on federal charges of conspiring with him to sexually abuse children as young as 14, and for lying about her alleged conduct as his procurer.
The arrest of the British socialite following a six-count criminal indictment issued in Manhattan federal court comes just days before the first anniversary of Epstein’s arrest on child sex trafficking charges.
Prosecutors said they would ask a judge to detain the 58-year-old Maxwell without bail, and also said they are continuing to investigate the case.
Epstein, a 66-year-old financier and convicted sex offender who was a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton and of Britain’s Prince Andrew, killed himself in a federal jail in Manhattan last August after being denied bail, authorities have said.
Maxwell is the first person charged in connection with Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse of underage girls other than him.
Epstein’s victims have called for Maxwell’s arrest ever since Epstein was charged last July.
A former girlfriend of Epstein, who was once paid to manage his properties, Maxwell has long been accused by victims of helping him to acquire a steady stream of young women to satisfy his compulsive obsession with receiving several “massages” each day.
She was arrested at around 8:30 a.m. what the FBI called a “gorgeous property” in Bradford, New Hampshire, after having previously “slithered” back into the United States at some point.
Maxwell, who is the daughter of the late disgraced British media mogul and swindler Robert Maxwell, is scheduled to appear in a federal court in New Hampshire on Thursday afternoon.
She has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The indictment accuses Maxwell of helping Epstein in the mid-1990s recruit and groom victims that were underage girls, at least one as young as 14 years old, so that he could sexually abuse them at his residences in New York City, Palm Beach, Florida, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as at Maxwell’s home in London.
The conduct charged in the case against Maxwell predates by a decade or more the conduct that Epstein was charged with last year.
“In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims,” the indictment says.
It also says that while under oath, she “repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct” during a legal deposition in 2016 as part of a lawsuit.
Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case, said at a press conference that Maxwell had lied under oath about her conduct with the victims “because the truth was almost unspeakable.”
“She pretended to be a woman [the victims] could trust, all the while they were setting them up to be abused by Epstein and in some cases by Maxwell herself,” Strauss said.
Strauss also said her office “would welcome” Prince Andrew “coming in and giving us an opportunity to hear his statement” about his relationship with Epstein and Maxwell.
Andrew previously has denied a claim by one of Epstein’s victims that he had sex with her at the direction of Maxwell.
Straus, echoing the claims made in the indictment, said that Epstein and Maxwell had a “method” for luring young girls into their clutches, so that they could give “sexualized massages” to Epstein, which sometimes evolved into sex with Epstein and with Maxwell on ocassion.
That method involved Epstein and Maxwell “briefriend young girls” by asking them about their lives,” taking them to movies, and “treating them to shopping trips,” Strauss said.
“Maxwell encouraged girls to accept Epstein’s offers to pay for their travel and education … making them feel indebted to Epstein,” the prosecutor said.
To further groom the victims, “Maxwell would discuss sexual topics with the victims, and undress in front of them and be present for sex acts,” Strauss said. “Maxwell’s presence as an adult woman[during massages of Epstein by the victims] would put the girls at ease.”
The top prosecutor and the FBI urged other people who may have been abused by Epstein to contact them.
Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York speaks at a news conference announcing charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein in New York City, New York, U.S., July 2, 2020.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
One of Epstein’s accusers voiced relief about the arrest.
“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,” Jennifer Araoz, said in a statement.
“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. Day after day, I have waited for the news that Maxwell would be arrested and held accountable for her actions. Her arrest is a step in that direction, and it truly means that the justice system didn’t forget about us.”
Maxwell’s prosecution by the Southern District comes less than two weeks after the former head of the office, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, was fired by Trump.The office is now being led on a temporary basis, at least for now, by Berman’s former deputy, Strauss.
Berman in the months before his termination repeatedly said his office was investigating Epstein’s co-conspirators.
The indictment released Thursday, which was handed up by a federal grand jury in Manhattan, says the charges stem from Maxwell’s role “in the sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein.”
“In particular, from at least in and about 1994, up to and including in or about 1997, Maxwell assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abused victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18,” the indictment says.
“The victims were as young as 14 years old when they were groomed and abused by Maxwell and Epstein, both of whom knew that certain victims were in fact under the age of 18.”
The indictment includes photographs of the residences where Epstein allegedly abused his victims.
The indictment charges Maxwell with conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sexual acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and two counts of perjury.
The charging document, in citing evidence for the perjury charges, notes that during an April 2016 deposition of Maxwell taken in New York as part of a lawsuit, she was asked, “Did Jeffrey Epstein have a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Maxwell said.
During another deposition in July 2016, Maxwell said, “I wasn’t aware that he was having sexual activities with anyone when I was with him other than myself.”
One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, has said in unsealed depositions that Maxwell directed her to have sex with Prince Andrew; former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Maine Democrat; former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; hedge funder Glenn Dubin; late MIT scientist Marvin Minsky; modeling company founder Jean-Luc Brunel; as well as with the owner of large hotel chain, and another prince.
“There was, you know, another foreign president, I can’t remember his name,” Giuffre said in one deposition. “He was Spanish. There’s a whole bunch of them that I just — it’s just so hard for me to remember all of them.”
“I was told to do something by these people constantly … my whole life revolved around just pleasing these men and keeping Ghislaine and Jeffrey happy,” Giuffre said in the deposition. “Their whole entire lives revolved around sex.”
Richardson and Mitchell have denied ever meeting Guiffre, much less having sex with her. Andrew last year denied having sex with her, as did Dubin and Brunel.
The deposition excerpts released last year are part of a defamation lawsuit that Giuffre filed against Maxwell several years ago.
The suit accused Maxwell of calling Giuffre a liar for claiming that Maxwell and Epstein sexually abused her when she was underage.
Epstein was arrested last year at a northern New Jersey airport after flying from France. An indictment accused him of sexully abusing dozens of underage girls from 2002 through 2005 at his luxurious residences on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and in Palm Beach, Florida.
He was charged with child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking. The indictment alleged that he was assisted by several unnamed conspirators.
Epstein previously pleaded guilty to state criminal charges in Florida, including paying an underage girl for sexual services. He served just 13 months in jail, but was free much of that time on work release, a privilege that drew sharp criticism on the heels of his arrest 11 years later.
Epstein was a registered sex offender because of his plea in the Florida case, which came as part of a highly controversial agreement with federal prosecutors in southern Florida not to charge him and several unidentified associates on federal criminal charges.
The controversy over Epstein’s treatment grew even larger in August 2019, when he was found dead in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. Authorities said Epstein hanged himself, but his lawyers and brothers have questioned that finding.
Two jail guards have been charged with trying to cover up their failure to monitor him and other inmates as required in the hours before he was found dead.
Epstein’s death came weeks after he was found semi-conscious and with marks on his neck on the floor of his jail cell.
Prince Andrew’s connections with Epstein and Maxwell received renewed attention last year, leading to his withdrawal from public duties.
Federal prosecutors in the SDNY have formally requested an interview with him, saying he has failed to cooperate as promised with their investigation.
But Andrew’s lawyers last month said the Duke of York has three times this year offered to assist the U.S. Department of Justice in the probe.
– Additional reporting by CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger