Epstein’s “Prequel” case accuses associate Ghislaine Maxwell of luring girls for sexual abuse – Courthouse News Service
MANHATTAN (CN) – Heating up a sex trafficking scandal that has embarrassed presidents, royalty, high-profile lawyers and international jet-setters, US authorities on Thursday indicted London socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, described by many as the lieutenant trust of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell’s Federal charge was widely expected, nearly a year to the day when Epstein was arrested for sex trafficking, ultimately scuttled by his death in prison in August. Maxwell, 58, is accused in New York of treating Epstein’s victims for abuse; together, the six charges add up to a possible 35-year sentence.
Bill Sweeney, the deputy director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, noted at a press conference this afternoon that authorities have spent the intervening months following Maxwell’s movements.
“We learned that she had slipped into a beautiful property in New Hampshire,” Sweeney told reporters today, adding that her arrest was carried out this morning without incident.
Court documents indicate that a 156-acre property in Bradford, New Hampshire was purchased in an all-cash transaction last December through a “carefully anonymized LLC,” a form privileged society to escape detection.
With most US federal courts closed for the coronavirus pandemic, Maxwell appeared briefly this afternoon for a first hearing via remote video from New Hampshire. Hundreds of people listened to an audio stream of the proceedings as an examining magistrate ordered his transfer to the Southern District of New York, where prosecutors from the Public Corruption Unit are conducting his case.
Earlier today in Manhattan, acting US attorney Audrey Strauss, whose predecessor Geoffrey Berman opened the 2019 case against Epstein, called Maxwell’s lawsuit a “prequel” to the financier’s sordid case.
“In some cases, Maxwell herself participated in the abuse,” Strauss told reporters at a noon press conference at prosecutors’ headquarters in lower Manhattan, describing how Epstein and his partner gained the trust of girls as young as 14 years old.
“They would take them to the movies and give them shopping trips,” piling up purchases to make the girls feel “in debt” to their new friends, Strauss said.
Bradley Edward, a lawyer for more than 20 alleged victims, shared his clients’ appreciation for the new charges.
“They are also grateful for the determination SDNY prosecutors have shown throughout their investigation,” Edwards said in a statement, for short Southern District of New York. “As for Ghislaine’s importance in Jeffrey Epstein’s organization as well as his loose affiliation with the truth, we’ve worked for years to expose both. Today we are taking another step towards justice.
With graphic detail, prosecutors described the preparation process and decades-old abuse accounts in an 18-page document. charge unsealed today.
“Maxwell’s presence during the minor victim’s interactions with Epstein, including interactions where the minor victim was undressed or involving sexual acts with Epstein, helped put victims at ease as an adult female was present,” indicates the indictment. “For example, in some cases Maxwell would massage Epstein in front of a minor victim. In other cases, Maxwell encouraged underage victims to offer Epstein massages, including sexualized massages in which an underage victim would be fully or partially naked. Many of these massages led to Epstein sexually abuse underage victims. “
Along with an undated image of Epstein and Maxwell kissing to show their “intimate relationship,” the indictment includes several photographs of Epstein’s vast real estate. Prosecutors say Maxwell facilitated the abuse at the accused sex trafficker’s New York mansion, his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., And his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Epstein’s mistreatment of underage victims included, among other things, touching a victim’s chest, touching a victim’s genitals, placing a sex toy such as a vibrator on the organs, genitals of a victim, ”states the indictment.
A Londoner who recently locked himself in Bradford, New Hampshire, Maxwell is accused of helping manage these properties between 1994 and 1997.
Although the indictment does not name Epstein’s minor victims, it alleges that Maxwell participated in “several group sex encounters” with one of the girls and Epstein in New York and Florida.
Some of these details overlap with allegations by victims who came forward in civilian court, including Virginie giuffre, whose lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Years before Epstein was found hanged in his cell, in what authorities called suicide, Giuffre enlisted many prominent figures in the sex trafficking scandal. Testifying in a deposition for a 2015 case where she accused Maxwell of turning her into one of Epstein’s “sex slaves”, Giuffre said Maxwell ordered her to have sex with the governor of New -Mexico Bill Richardson, financier Glenn Dubin, model scout Jean-Luc Brunel, former Senator George Mitchell and others. All of these men have denied the allegations, which were made public by the Second circuit last year after a prolonged struggle to unseal the files related to this case.
For others, the mere affiliation with Epstein led to an embarrassing public spectacle. Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump have appeared in Epstein’s orbit. The Democrat jumped on the “Lolita Express” financier and the seated Republican saw Epstein dancing with him in a viral video. Both have distanced themselves from the deceased financier.
Maxwell’s lawsuits promise to bring more clarity between serious accusations and rumors. Prosecutors allege Maxwell lied in a deposition while denying knowledge of any pattern of sex trafficking.
“Maxwell lied because the truth, as it is claimed, was almost unspeakable,” Strauss told reporters.
When asked if she knew Epstein had a plan to recruit underage girls for sex massages, Maxwell replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
This response forms the basis of a charge of perjury, and Maxwell’s refusal to personally participate in the alleged abuses in this case constitutes another count.
“Other than yourself and the blonde and brunette you identified as having been involved in threesome sex, who did Mr. Epstein have sex with?” Maxwell’s questioner asked him in Giuffre’s trial in 2015.
“I had no idea he was having sex with anyone when I was with him other than myself,” Maxwell replied years ago, forming the basis of his second perjury tally.
The Maxwell saga also made waves in the UK for its links to prince andrew, which New York prosecutors called uncooperative with their investigation. The United States has officially called on the British government to urge the prince to comply with the investigation.
Prosecutors here have also issued two extraordinary reprimands contradicting Prince Andrew’s claims that he was helpful.
“We would like to take advantage of his statement,” Strauss said.
Maxwell waived her right to appear in person at her preliminary hearing today, where she was represented by New Hampshire attorney Lawrence Vogelman. The socialite said little when she was informed of her rights and the allegations made against her.
US investigating magistrate Andrea Johnstone has placed her in the custody of federal commissioners for her transportation to New York City, where she faces charges of inciting and transporting minors for sexual acts, related conspiracy counts and two perjury charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe, from the same Southern District Public Corruption Unit that filed a complaint against Epstein, attended the conference and has already filed a request pushing to deny Maxwell’s bail.
Describing an “extreme risk of flight”, prosecutors have traced more than 15 bank accounts “owned by or associated with” the British socialite from 2016 to the present, with hidden amounts ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to over $ 20 million. of dollars. .
A citizen of the United States, France and the United Kingdom, Maxwell has “one or more” foreign bank accounts in excess of $ 1 million and has traveled abroad in the past three years at least 15 times. , notably in the United Kingdom, Japan and Qatar. .