Virginia Giuffre was strolling a beachside market in Australia when the call came. That Sunday, she was enjoying a family outing but knew she had to answer her phone. It was her lawyer, Sigrid McCawley, who suggested she find a place to sit down. “Epstein’s been arrested,” McCawley told her.
“I was crying with tears of joy in the middle of the marketplace,” Giuffre remembers of that day in July 2019 when Jeffrey Epstein—the wealthy sexual predator who’d abused and trafficked her and scores of minor girls and young women for years—had finally been charged with sex crimes in New York.
“All these people were looking at me like I’m a weirdo. I just broke down then and there. Finally, finally, justice had come through,” Giuffre told The Daily Beast. “That was one of the best days of my life. Even talking about it now I’m still overjoyed.”
Giuffre and countless other survivors of Epstein’s international trafficking scheme, which involved Epstein abusing underage girls at his properties in New York, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and elsewhere, after hiring them for $200 to $1,000 “massages,” had waited for this comeuppance for years.
But not a month later, Epstein killed himself behind bars, taking many of his secrets to the grave. He also funneled his $634 million estate to his faithful lawyers, who helped to craft a victims compensation fund that only offers payouts in exchange for a promise not to pursue any of his associates. Many victims worried that no one would ever face justice for the decades of rape, molestation, and trafficking.
Until now. One year after Epstein’s high-profile arrest—and his subsequent suicide—prosecutors may finally be closing in on the billionaire pedophile’s alleged network of enablers and fellow abusers. On Thursday, Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend and alleged madam, was arrested and charged with assisting, facilitating, and contributing to the abuse of minor girls as young as 14, as well as lying under oath. The British heiress had been laying low ever since Epstein’s arrest while battling efforts to unseal court records. But the FBI had been keeping an eye on her all along, and nabbed her at a “gorgeous residence” in rural New Hampshire that she purchased through an LLC in December 2019. Maxwell now faces decades in prison if convicted.
Still, many other alleged associates remain at large. Epstein and Maxwell’s pal Prince Andrew has allegedly dodged interviews with authorities who want to ask him about accusations he participated in the sex ring—a claim he adamantly denies. French model scout Jean-Luc Brunel, who allegedly imported foreign girls for Epstein to rape, is rumored to be hiding in Brazil. Sarah Kellen, a longtime assistant of Epstein’s and named co-conspirator in his plea deal, says she was a victim herself.
Maxwell and Prince Andrew have been scrutinized most in the press. This year, (now former) head of the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman claimed Andrew had provided “zero cooperation” in the investigation. In June, The Sun reported Berman’s office asked British officials to hand over the Duke of York for questioning. Andrew’s attorneys issued an unprecedented statement, claiming the 60-year-old royal had offered himself as a witness “on at least three occasions this year.” The legal team suggested U.S. prosecutors were “perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered.”
During a press conference on Maxwell’s arrest this week, the SDNY reiterated, “We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement.”
Meanwhile, victims rejoiced at Maxwell’s arrest, after a year of worrying that Epstein’s enablers would never be held accountable. Marijke Chartouni, who says Epstein assaulted her in 2000 during a visit to his New York mansion, said she could finally exhale. “There’s a renewal of hope, where you haven’t lost complete faith in the justice system.”
“Someone will be held accountable,” she added. “Finally.”
“One of the things that [had] disappointed me this year is that Ghislaine Maxwell [was] still walking around a free woman,” Giuffre told The Daily Beast.
Giuffre was 16 when Maxwell allegedly recruited her for Epstein in 1999. The teenager was working at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort when the socialite approached and offered her massage training at Epstein’s mansion. According to Giuffre, Maxwell and Epstein groomed her for sex with their wealthy and powerful friends, including Brunel and Prince Andrew. (Both men and Maxwell have denied this.)
“The government owes us victims who’ve been fighting for so long,” Giuffre said. “All I can hope is that they do their job and bring these people to justice.”
Contacted last week before Maxwell’s arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York would only say the investigation is ongoing. And prosecutors declared on Thursday that their investigation remains ongoing, and that they continue to seek to “bring justice” to any individuals who helped Jeffrey Epstein or others abuse minor girls.
The revelations that have emerged in the past year about Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking scheme are astonishing in their scope.
In the weeks and months following Epstein’s arrest, more than two dozen women came forward in lawsuits against his estate. They were able to do so because of New York’s Child Victims Act, which went into effect in August and extended the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors.
Jennifer Araoz said Epstein began abusing her when she was 14 years old, after she was recruited outside her performing arts high school in Manhattan.
Jane Doe said Epstein and Maxwell started grooming her in 1994, when she was 13. The couple met Doe at Interlochen’s summer camp in Michigan, and Epstein abused her and raped her for years afterward. (The Daily Beast previously revealed Epstein funded and used a cabin at the prestigious arts school.)
Katlyn Doe, an anonymous victim, claimed Epstein forced her to marry one of his recruiters, who wasn’t a U.S. citizen. She also alleges that Epstein flew her to Florida in 2009 and forced her to have sex with him during his “work release” privileges.
That year, Epstein was serving 13 months of an 18-month stint, for sex with an underage girl, in the private wing of the Palm Beach County Jail. The sentence was a mere slap on the wrist after the financier was accused of molesting and raping dozens of young girls at his Florida mansion, thanks to a shady plea deal brokered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. For most of his cushy jail time, Epstein was on work release and continued to sexually exploit young women.
His pyramid abuse scheme continued until he was busted on July 6, 2019, following an investigation in New York. The Miami Herald’s Pulitzer-winning series on Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement lit a fire under the government to finally do something.
The Daily Beast broke the news of Epstein’s arrest at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Agents with the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force collared the 66-year-old after his private plane returned from a trip to France.
Manhattan federal prosecutors charged Epstein with child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, and days after a press conference, one assistant U.S. attorney told a judge at Epstein’s bail hearing that the government’s evidence was “getting stronger every single day.”
But in early August, Epstein evaded justice once again—this time, by killing himself in a federal lockup, not long after he’d been taken off suicide watch.
Soon after Epstein’s shocking demise, then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman vowed the criminal probe wasn’t over: “To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment—which included a conspiracy count—remains ongoing.”
Later that month, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman held a hearing for victims before he dismissed charges against the dead financier.
Courtney Wild, who was exploited by Epstein in Palm Beach and sued the Department of Justice over his controversial plea deal, stood up first. “Jeffrey Epstein has done nothing but manipulate our justice system,” she said, “where he has never been held accountable for his actions, even to this day.” (An appeals court ruled against Wild’s suit, which alleged the government violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Wild has asked for a rehearing.)
Sarah Ransome, who sued Epstein and Maxwell in 2017, addressed prosecutors when it was her turn to speak: “Please, please finish what you have started.”
In the meantime, the fight against Epstein continues to wind through civil courts.
Last month, the Epstein Victims' Compensation Program began taking claims from women seeking settlements for the abuse they suffered. The fund’s administrator, Jordana Feldman, who was the deputy special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, said the claims could result in “thousands to millions of dollars” for each survivor.
Victims who accept the voluntary program’s settlement offer must then waive their rights to sue—or continue their existing lawsuits—against Epstein’s estate and “related entities and/or individuals.” Asked which individuals would be shielded from liability, Feldman confirmed in a statement that Maxwell is one of them.
“The release covers the Estate and any related entities or individuals, including Maxwell and anyone else who was employed by, contracted with, or engaged by Epstein or his entities,” Feldman said. “The release allows a Claimant to expressly carve out/preserve their rights against certain individuals to whom the victim was trafficked outside Epstein’s employ. Nothing in the release or the Program limits what information Claimants can share with law enforcement, the media, or anyone else.”
Maxwell is facing at least three pending lawsuits, including those filed by Araoz and Annie Farmer. A third lawsuit, from Jane Doe, claims the heiress “helped supply [Epstein] with a steady stream of young and vulnerable girls—many of whom were fatherless, like Jane Doe, and came from struggling families.”
In March of this year, Maxwell brazenly filed a claim against Epstein’s estate, arguing the money-manager had promised to “always support [her] financially” and that she needed funds for attorneys’ fees and private security.
She has also tried to elude victims serving her with lawsuits. In several cases, Maxwell’s lawyer, Laura Menninger, claimed she wasn’t authorized to accept service, despite appearing in court on Maxwell’s behalf over the battle to unseal records in a 2015 defamation suit filed by Giuffre. The case was settled in 2017.
Thousands of documents in that case were released in August of last year, revealing the identities of powerful men accused of participating in Epstein’s sex ring—including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, financier Glenn Dubin, and now-deceased MIT scientist Marvin Minsky. The Miami Herald sued to make the filings public, and Epstein’s onetime lawyer Alan Dershowitz has also demanded their release. (Giuffre claims Epstein trafficked her to Dershowitz, who has repeatedly denied this and says the documents will prove his innocence. Ransome also claimed Epstein forced her into sex with Dershowitz. The Harvard law professor claims he’s never met her.)
Another document dump is expected in the next few months, after the secret files undergo what’s become a protracted review process.
Epstein’s prominent associates continue to make headlines, raising questions on what they knew about his trafficking operation. One new book alleges former President Bill Clinton, who flew on Epstein’s plane multiple times including for a 2002 humanitarian trip to Africa, was having an affair with Maxwell. (Angel Ureña, Clinton’s press secretary, denied the claim: “It’s a total lie today, it’s a total lie tomorrow, and it’ll be a total lie years from now.”)
Witnesses told a Netflix docuseries they saw Clinton on Epstein’s so-called “Pedophile Island,” though no one has accused the former president of misconduct or abusing victims in Epstein’s ring. “Bill Clinton has been on that island,” said Steve Scully, one former employee at the financier’s private isle, Little Saint James. “I saw Bill Clinton sitting with Jeffrey on the living room porch.” (Ureña denied this, too.)
Another book, by victims’ lawyer Brad Edwards, claimed President Trump provided helpful intel on Epstein, including a list of people who “would know Epstein’s propensities better.”
Meanwhile, Maxwell also won a delay in questioning in Annie Farmer’s case. In a May 13 letter to Judge Debra Freeman, Menninger argued the criminal probe in New York justified a stay in taking Maxwell’s deposition, which could “impair her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination” or “expose the defense’s theory to the prosecution in advance of trial, or otherwise prejudice the criminal case.” (Menninger also claimed Farmer’s claims would be moot if she participated in the victims compensation fund.)
Maxwell’s arrest last week delighted victims, who expressed relief that justice might finally be served. “This is the best day. I have hope again,” said Maria Farmer, who reported Epstein to the NYPD and the FBI in the 1990s and was “terrified” the latest criminal probe was “never going to go anywhere.”
In interviews and court filings, Farmer said Epstein and Maxwell sexually assaulted her at the estate of Limited Brands chairman Les Wexner in the summer of ’96. (Wexner, under pressure over his decades-long relationship to Epstein, stepped down from his retail empire earlier this year. Wexner claimed he was “never aware” of Epstein’s alleged sex crimes.)
“I really feel hopeful that maybe they’ll get some of the perps,” Farmer added of federal prosecutors. “Maybe they’ll go down the list of co-conspirators.
As The Daily Beast reported, Farmer is now battling two forms of cancer while advocating for survivors. “This has put a fire in my belly that makes me want to survive,” Farmer said. She said she was heartbroken and angry after watching the new Netflix docuseries on Epstein and seeing victims, including Shawna Rivera, speak publicly for the first time. To Farmer, Rivera was just one victim who may never have been abused if authorities had listened to her years before.
Farmer’s sister, Annie, also claims Maxwell and Epstein groomed her and assaulted her at the financier’s New Mexico compound. (This property is where Epstein allegedly wanted to create a “baby ranch” to impregnate women and flood the world with his DNA.)
Annie and Maria Farmer had come forward to Vanity Fair writer Vicky Ward for her 2003 profile on the mysterious Epstein, but their accusations were axed from the piece—something the sisters say was very painful for them.
“I have been really moved by the large number of people that have reached out this year to express their support for all of us,” Annie Farmer told The Daily Beast in a statement. “This has been healing personally, and has led me to recognize that this story resonates with people, both survivors of abuse and those who are simply offended by the idea that people are able to use their positions of power to evade consequences for their actions.”
“I am grateful that we've finally been given a platform to speak out about our experiences because I have heard from many people that this has helped them to know they can do the same,” Farmer added.
However, she expressed frustration that “despite the attention the case has received…documents remain sealed, and there has been no report released about the circumstances of his death. This sends the wrong message, and I still hope that the government will do something to correct it.”
David Boies, a lawyer for Farmer and Giuffre, said Thursday that Epstein “could not have engaged his sex trafficking system without the help and support of others.”
“Ghislaine Maxwell's indictment for her perjury in our civil case against her should answer once and for all who is telling the truth,” he said.
Before Maxwell’s arrest, Boies told The Daily Beast, “This was an elaborate, long-running sex-trafficking scheme, both nationally and internationally, involving dozens and dozens of young girls. It was not something that Jeffrey Epstein did by himself.”
Boies says prosecutors deserve credit for Epstein’s arrest and resurrecting the probe, which “virtually changed the narrative overnight.”
“The progress that we have made in the last year towards getting compensation for the victims has been progress we would not have been able to achieve without the arrest of Epstein as a result of the Southern District of New York’s investigation.”
Sigrid McCawley, a partner at Boies’ firm, said she remembers “feeling such a sense of justice and safety” for her clients after Epstein was put behind bars. “There was a lot of freedom not only for me but for my clients,” she said.
She was driving with her kids in the car when she learned Epstein was arrested. She pulled over and called Giuffre. The women, about 10,000 miles and 14 hours apart, shed happy tears. “Out of my whole career, it is something that I’ll never forget,” McCawley said.
She said the voices of Epstein victims were heard like they hadn’t been before, and added, “It was a beauty to witness and walk alongside them in those moments.”
Some victims say they felt a duty to speak up for the first time after Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest. Until last year, some hadn’t even told spouses or loved ones what happened to them. They’re mothers with young children and want to protect them from people like Epstein.
Marijke Chartouni was 20 when, in 2000, a friend named Rena brought her to Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse, where she says they both assaulted her. She said the next day, Epstein’s assistant called and said the financier would like to meet with her. “I said I was not interested and hung up the phone,” recalled Chartouni, who now lives in Washington state.
“It was something I had completely buried,” she said. “I didn't even tell my husband.” On July 9, she called the FBI hotline set up after Epstein’s arrest. “I just wanted to help because there's so many Jane Does and victims who haven’t come forward,” she added. “I think if people see more than just one victim, if they see a few are speaking out, they feel more comfortable speaking out themselves.”
Chartouni says she feels there’s still questions that haven’t been answered and facilitators of Epstein’s abuse who need to be held accountable. “You’re left in this purgatory state. You don’t know what’s going on. You do have the compensation fund—that’s been the only new development,” she said.
Teresa Helm came forward for the first time, too. She says she was 22 and in massage school in California when a fellow student introduced her to Sarah Kellen, who then arranged for her to fly to New York to meet Ghislaine Maxwell in 2002.
Helm, now 40, met Maxwell at her Manhattan apartment. At one point, Helm visited the restroom and saw a framed photo of Maxwell and former President Clinton. “I remember thinking, gosh, here’s this clearly successful woman and her and I are sharing conversations like I’m her equal,” Helm recalled.
After she gave Maxwell a normal massage, the socialite arranged for Helm to meet her partner “Jeffrey” and advised her to give him “whatever he wants.” During a foot massage, Epstein pressed his foot into the intimate parts of her body. He then sexually assaulted her after she left the room. “For 17 years, it was something I didn’t talk about with anyone, but it’s something I thought about countless times over the years,” she said.
Helm heard about Epstein’s arrest on a YouTube channel days later and decided she couldn’t suffer in silence anymore. “We have to keep our voices very loud because these people need to be held accountable,” she said.
The trauma still lingers. “I get filled with anger against Ghislaine and Sarah. The whole process of being passed along as an object. Those are the people who are still here. They’re out and about and free to roam,” Helm told The Daily Beast before Maxwell’s arrest.
After Maxwell was charged, Helm said she was overjoyed. “I just feel so grateful that so many people are believing in doing the right thing and trying to fight for others,” she said.
The Ohio mother of two says she also came forward for her kids, to teach her children and other children how to protect themselves and set boundaries.
She’s been working with Giuffre on her nonprofit, Victims Refuse Silence, which provides resources for victims of sex trafficking. The women will be keynote speakers at the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation’s online global summit later this month.
“There are way more victims in this world that don't have the ability to come forward or the platform, or feel that they don't,” Helm said. “That’s a major component for Victims Refuse Silence. It’s providing that safe place.”
Giuffre has had a rocky year, but hasn’t slowed down her fight on behalf of survivors. Victims Refuse Silence is planning to release a podcast soon and to eventually unveil a healing center for trafficking victims. “We’re working hard to use this small window of opportunity while the world is paying attention,” she said.
In April, the 36-year-old mom was hospitalized for pneumonia during the coronavirus pandemic (her COVID test was negative). Months later, she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and collapsed on the hard floor of the hospital. “I might be wearing a neckbrace and an arm sling, but I’m still here,” Giuffre quipped.
When Giuffre learned Maxwell was busted on Thursday, she jumped out of bed and woke her husband. Giuffre couldn’t fall asleep; she was giddy picturing the socialite, who allegedly trafficked her for years, wearing an orange jumpsuit.
“I am stunned. I am grateful. I am over the moon,” Giuffre said. “I can’t wait for the coronavirus to clear up because I am going to see her in court!”
“I’m going to visit her in jail and ask her, ‘How does it feel for someone to take your freedom away?’”