Crime & Justice

Longtime Epstein associate arrested in US

By Nora Quintanilla

New York, Jul 2 (efe-epa).- A British socialite and longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein’s was arrested on Thursday in the United States on charges of helping the late financier recruit, groom and sexually abuse multiple underage girls in the 1990s.

Ghislaine Maxwell, a 58-year-old ex-girlfriend of Epstein’s, was detained on Thursday morning by the FBI in the small town of Bradford, New Hampshire, after a grand jury indicted her on six charges – four counts related to her alleged procurement of minors as young as 14 for the financier’s purported sex-trafficking ring and two perjury counts.

During a Thursday afternoon court appearance via videolink, a judge in that northeastern state remanded Maxwell to the custody of US Marshals and ordered that she be transferred to New York City, where a bail hearing will be held in the near future.

Prosecutors have asked that the defendant be denied bail, saying she poses an extreme flight risk because of her wealth and international connections.

The charges against Maxwell were officially announced at a press conference Thursday by the acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, whose office in July 2019 had charged Epstein with sex trafficking of minors between 2002 and 2005.

That earlier criminal case was formally closed after the 66-year-old financier killed himself behind bars last August.

“This case against Ghislaine Maxwell is the prequel to the earlier case we brought against Jeffrey Epstein,” the prosecutor said. “These charges announced today are the latest results of our investigation into Epstein and the people around him who facilitated his abuse of minor victims. That investigation remains ongoing.”

The first person besides Epstein to be criminally indicted in connection with the purported sex ring, the socialite allegedly “played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse,” Strauss said, adding that “in some cases Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.”

The crimes in the Maxwell case date back to the years between 1994 and 1997, when the daughter of late British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell was in an intimate relationship with Epstein and also managed different properties of his in New York City; Palm Beach, Florida; and Santa Fe, Mexico.

According to the indictment, the alleged sexual abuse occurred at those properties and also at Maxwell’s home in London.

Strauss said the defendant’s method for luring young girls involved gradually getting to know them by showing interest in their lives and taking them to the movies or on shopping trips.

Eventually, according to the prosecutor, Maxwell encouraged these girls to accept Epstein’s offers to pay for their travel or education, thereby “making them feel indebted” to him.

Maxwell would “try to normalize sexual abuse” by discussing sexual topics and undressing in front of the minor victims, as well as by witnessing their sexual interactions with Epstein, according to Strauss, who said the defendant’s actions “helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present.”

The indictment states that one of the three minor victims (who are unnamed) was 14 years old when she met Maxwell and began to be sexually abused by Epstein within a year’s time.

It accused Maxwell in particular of involving that victim in “group sexualized massages” of Epstein.

The two perjury counts pertain to testimony that Maxwell gave under oath in 2016 in connection with a then-pending case before the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

At that time, Maxwell allegedly provided false information when, among other things, she denied any knowledge of a scheme by Epstein to recruit underage girls and said she wasn’t aware that he was having sexual relations with anyone other than herself during the time they were a couple.

Maxwell’s whereabouts had been unknown since August 2019, when she was spotted at a restaurant in Los Angeles shortly after Epstein’s suicide.

But FBI Special Agent William Sweeney said Thursday at a press conference that agents in four states had been “discreetly keeping tabs” on her.

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