New York authorities announced criminal charges against Jeffrey Epstein’s right-hand woman Ghislaine Maxwell Thursday, saying the British heiress “slithered” away to a beautiful New Hampshire home and “continu[ed] to live a life of privilege” as authorities steadily built a case against her for her alleged participation in the late financier’s abuse of minor girls.
The socialite was arrested around 8:30 a.m. in Bradford, New Hampshire, by agents from the FBI and New York Police Department, after months of speculation over where she could be hiding. At a brief appearance in federal district court in New Hampshire Thursday afternoon, Maxwell requested all further hearings be transferred to the Southern District of New York.
Authorities declined to say why they had waited nearly a year since Epstein’s arrest to bring charges against his alleged madam, revealing only that the indictment had recently been voted by a grand jury and that law enforcement “moved when we were ready.”
“We have been secretly keeping tabs on Ms. Maxwell’s whereabouts as we worked this investigation,” Bill Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office said at a Thursday press conference. “More recently we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted on them years ago.”
The six-count indictment against Maxwell alleges she “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse” underage victims dating back to at least 1994.
Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, described the counts as a “prequel” to the charges her office brought against Epstein before he apparently died by suicide in his jail cell last year. She added that her office is seeking detention for Maxwell, reigniting questions about the Bureau of Prison’s inability to keep Epstein alive.
A booking memo filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in support of Maxwell’s detention claims the heiress poses an “extreme risk of flight” because of her wealth and “extensive international connections.”
Maxwell, according to the memo, has maintained at least 15 different bank accounts in the last four years, with balances ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $20 million. She also reported at least one foreign bank account holding more than a million dollars last year. In 2016, she reportedly sold a residence in New York City for $15 million, and recently purchased a 156-acre property in Bradford—the same town where she was arrested—in cash.
The memo also claims Maxwell has three international passports and has taken at least 15 international flights in the last three years to places such as the U.K., Japan, and Qatar.
“In short, Maxwell has three passports, large sums of money, extensive international connections, and absolutely no reason to stay in the United States and face the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence,” the memo states.
Authorities also called on Thursday for any other victims of Epstein and Maxwell to come forward, and said they would welcome testimony from Britain’s Prince Andrew, who has been accused of participating in sex acts with at least one of Epstein’s underage victims. (Buckingham Palace has denied the allegations.)
In addition to charges of transporting and enticing minors for illegal sexual acts, Maxwell is also charged with perjury for allegedly making false statements about Epstein’s criminal sexual acts—and her involvement in them—in depositions for a 2016 lawsuit. At the time, she claimed she did not know anything about a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages and was not aware of his sexual activities with anyone other than herself.
“Maxwell lied because the truth as alleged was almost unspeakable,” Strauss said Thursday. “Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them. She pretended to be a woman they could trust. All the while she was setting them up to be abused by Epstein, and in some cases by Maxwell herself.”
The booking memo claims multiple victims provided “detailed, credible, and corroborated information” to support the charges. It says the victims’ accounts are supported by contemporaneous documents, records, witness testimony, flight records, diary entries, business records, and other evidence.
Speculation raged for months following Epstein’s death about where Maxwell could be and whether she was cooperating with authorities. Some said they had traced the socialite and Epstein pal Jean-Luc Brunel to Brazil, while others claimed she was holed up in Los Angeles after she was spotted eating at an In-N-Out Burger. An attorney for one of Epstein’s victims, Jennifer Araoz, said he had even hired private investigators to track her down and serve her with papers, to no avail.
On Thursday, Strauss said the perjury charges would not affect their ability to use Maxwell’s testimony if she chose to cooperate. “In the event that she were to become a cooperator, I think we can deal with that,” she said.
Maxwell had a brief romantic relationship with Epstein that later evolved into a close friendship and—according to multiple victims—a business partnership in which she would procure underage women for Epstein to abuse. Palm Beach authorities reportedly attempted to question her for their 2005 investigation into Epstein’s alleged molestation of teenage girls, but were unable to locate her.
The heiress was first named publicly in a 2009 lawsuit filed by Epstein accuser Virginia Guiffre, who sued the moneyman after he scored a sweetheart deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. (Maxwell called the accusations “obvious lies,” prompting Guiffre to file a defamation suit that resulted in the release of 2,000 pages of documents the day before Epstein committed suicide in jail.)
“Ghislaine Maxwell was heavily involved in the illegal sex,” Giuffre said in a January 2015 court filing. “She used Epstein’s money and he used her name and connections to gain power and prestige. One way to describe Maxwell’s role was as the ‘madame.’ She assumed a position of trust for all the girls, including me.”
Maxwell has also been named in three other lawsuits by Epstein victims, including Araoz, Annie Farmer, and an anonymous victim using the pseudonym Jane Doe. Araoz claims Maxwell helped facilitate her “brutal rape” at age 14, while Jane Doe claims she “helped supply [Epstein] with a steady stream of young and vulnerable girls.”