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 wealthy British socialite following a six-count criminal indictment issued Monday in Manhattan federal court comes just days before the first anniversary of the now-dead Epstein’s arrest on child sex trafficking charges.
During a hearing Thursday afternoon, a federal magistrate judge ordered that Maxwell be sent to Manhattan in the custody of U.S. marshal to face the charges, and to have another judge determine whether to grant her bail.
Prosecutors are asking for the 58-year-old Maxwell be held without bail, and also said they are continuing to investigate the case.
Maxwell is “an extreme flight risk,” who faces the prospect of serving “many years in prison,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
That filing also noted that Maxwell, the daughter of the late crooked media mogul Robert Maxwell, has extensive international connections, citizenship in Britain and France, passports from the U.S., United Kingdom and France, and large sums of money.
Lawrence Vogelman, Maxwell’s criminal defense lawyer, declined to comment on the charges.
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.
If Maxwell also is denied bail, she could be housed in that same jail where Epstein died after being sent to New York to face charges.
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
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.
Maxwell was arrested at around 8:30 a.m. ET in Bradford, New Hampshire, after having returned to the United States at some point.
“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 upon them years ago,” William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office, said at the press conference.
The 156-acre property where Maxwell was apprehended was bought for $1 million in December by a limited liability corporation that was anonymized to hide the identity of the person or persons behind the purchase, according to prosecutors.
The real estate agent who handled the sale for the seller told CNBC that she was unaware of the buyer’s actual identity because the buyer’s representatives would not disclose it.
Maxwell, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, is charged in the indictment helping Epstein in the mid-1990s recruit and groom 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 charged.
It also said that while under oath, Maxwell “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.
Prince Andrew previously has denied a claim by one of Epstein’s victims that he had sex with her at the direction of Maxwell.
Strauss, echoing the claims made in the indictment, said that Epstein and Maxwell had a “method” for luring young girls in order to give “sexualized massages” to Epstein, which sometimes evolved into sex with Epstein and with Maxwell on occasion.
That method was said to involve Epstein and Maxwell befriending 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.
In their motion seeking Maxwell’s detention without bail, prosecutors wrote that she “has effectively been in hiding for approximately a year, since an indictment against Epstein was unsealed in July 2019.”
The filing stated that Maxwell has 15 different bank accounts, and has “made intentional efforts to avoid detection, including moving locations at least twice, switching her primary phone number (which she registered under the name “G Max”) and email address, and ordering packages for delivery with a different person listed on the shipping label.”
The motion also said that Epstein, between 2007 and 2011, transferred more than $20 million from his own accounts to Maxwell, and that she later sent him back some of those funds.
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 Maxwell’s 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 of New York comes less than two weeks after the former head of the office, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, was fired by President Trump. The office is now being led on a temporary basis by Strauss, Berman’s former deputy.
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, said 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 said.
“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, noted 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 a 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. Prince 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 in from France. An indictment accused him of sexually 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 Southern District of New York have formally requested an interview with the prince, 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