- Financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges.
- After his arrest, investigators’ findings and unsealed court documents detail the extensive network of employees that federal prosecutors say targeted and recruited underage girls for sexual relationships Epstein.
- Epstein’s onetime reported girlfriend and longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell came back into focus as the woman accused of being his madam and of being instrumental in setting up a network of victims and other employees who found them.
- The FBI arrested Maxwell on July 2 on charges related to the grooming of underage girls who would be abused by Epstein. She had been in hiding for nearly a year.
- Here’s what we know about Maxwell, an Oxford-educated socialite with ties to Epstein.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges after weeks of investigation revealed how the financier’s network of employees facilitated his alleged sex trafficking and his close ties to high-profile figures in politics, business, and British royalty.
Prosecutors alleged in unsealed court documents that Epstein used an extensive network of employees and close associates to target and recruit underage girls for sexual relationships.
Nearly one year after Epstein’s final arrest, the FBI arrested his longtime girlfriend and confidante, Ghislaine Maxwell.
Maxwell, a French-born socialite, has been the subject of allegations for years that she was Epstein’s top accomplice, accused of recruiting victims and abusing them alongside the convicted sex offender.
Maxwell had previously been named as Epstein’s madam in legal documents created in a defamation suit against her, but on July 2 the FBI tracked her down to a “gorgeous New Hampshire property” and arrested her.
Here’s how the socialite became infamous.
Maxwell was born into the top of English society as the daughter of the publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell.
Ghislaine was born in 1961 as the now disgraced media tycoon’s youngest child and went on to attend boarding schools in the country before graduating from Oxford University.
During her 20s, Maxwell was a recognizable figure in London’s social scene, as she was named director of her father’s Oxford United football club and founded the Kit Kat Club for Women, a modern take on an intellectual club that aimed to support working women.
However, her father’s sudden death in 1991 while on his yacht, which was named “Lady Ghislaine” in her honor, cast a shadow on the family. His cause of death was long contested, as it came amid his company’s financial troubles, which rocked the British tabloids and sparked conspiracy theories.
After her father’s death, Maxwell moved to the US and dove into her new life as an American socialite, settling down on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and leveraging her connections to the rich and powerful to start working in real estate.
After fleeing to New York, Maxwell rubbed elbows with some of the city’s highfliers, including the real-estate developer Donald Trump.
Part of her social standing was because of her friendship with Queen Elizabeth’s son Prince Andrew, whom she was often photographed with at events in New York.
It was around this time that, according to an interview with the journalist Vicky Ward in Democracy Now, she met and began dating Epstein, who vacationed with the prince and was mentioned in the press for holding dinner parties that Maxwell organized, counting Trump, Google cofounder Sergey Brin, and the fashion titan Leslie Wexner among the guests.
Though their romantic relationship reportedly didn’t last, multiple reports point to the 1990s as when Maxwell would have transitioned into the role of “madam,” who would recruit girls for him.
Several women and federal prosecutors accuse Maxwell of befriending and grooming young girls who would then be abused by Epstein.
A grand jury indictment from the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan, accuses Maxwell of enticing minors to travel to engage in sexual acts, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual acts, and perjury.
The prosecutors say that, beginning in at least 1994, that Maxwell would seek out young women and, after building a rapport, she’d normalize sexual abuse by discussing sexual topics with them, undress in front of them, and being present as Epstein sexually abused them, the indictment alleges.
The indictment accuses Maxwell of having minors watch her give massages, including sexual massages, to Epstein and then have them join in. Sometimes they would be nude or partially nude during the massage, the documents say.
“These sexual massages developed into sexual encounters for which Maxwell, in some instances, was present and participated,” Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, told reporters.
Prosecutors say abuse took place at Epstein’s homes on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; in Palm Beach, Florida; and in New Mexico, as well as at Maxwell’s home in London.
Before Maxwell’s arrest, some victims had already come forward accusing her of this behavior.
Maria Farmer said last year that she met Maxwell at an art show in 1995. She alleged that months later, Maxwell sexually assaulted her alongside Epstein at a property in Ohio before molesting her 15-year-old sister at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch, according to The Daily Beast.
She said Epstein later called her and invited her to New York to begin work as his art consultant, The Daily Beast reported. Instead, she said she was hired to become a “lookout for the front door” of Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, where she said she manned the front door and kept “records of people who came to the home,” many of whom were school-age girls, some in uniform, who were escorted upstairs.
“When I asked Maxwell why these young girls were coming over to the house so often she said that the girls were interviewing for modeling positions,” Farmer said in the affidavit, according to The Daily Beast. “At the time, based on my observations at the home, it did not seem credible to me that these young girls were interviewing for modeling positions.”
Another accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, alleged in court documents filed in 2017 that she was recruited by Maxwell to give Epstein massages while she was 15 and working as a towel girl at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. She alleged she spent the next four years under Epstein’s control as a “sex slave.”
Maxwell maintained an active social life in New York, and the combination of her relationship with Epstein and other high-profile figures sparked concerns about a wider network of abusers.
Despite years of allegations and rumors about Epstein’s sexual relationships with young girls, Maxwell and Epstein kept up appearances, with Maxwell even launching the ocean-conservation nonprofit The TerraMar Project.
Though prominent figures distanced themselves from Epstein, and by extension, Maxwell, over the years, she maintained a spot in New York society.
It wasn’t until Epstein’s 2019 arrest that Maxwell was pushed out of the public eye and into hiding. She had spent the year moving between homes in New England before finally being taken into custody at a $1 million luxury New Hampshire home that was bought in cash.
Here’s Ghislaine Maxwell, by many accounts Jeffrey Epstein’s “pimp” and “groomer of girls” at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. pic.twitter.com/leBUwqoWnT
— Adam McKay (@GhostPanther) July 7, 2019
At least two women who said Epstein sexually abused them sued Maxwell, accusing her of retaliating against them.
After Maxwell publicly slammed Giuffre’s claims as “entirely false,” Giuffre filed a lawsuit in 2015 that alleged Maxwell “undertook a concerted and malicious campaign to discredit [Giuffre] and to so damage her reputation that [Giuffre’s] factual reporting of what had happened to her would not be credited,” according to Page Six.
But in May 2017, the case was settled before the trial could start (it’s been reported Maxwell settled with Giuffre), and a US District Court judge ordered that the vast majority of filings be sealed.
Maxwell was the lone petitioner to keep the documents sealed, her lawyer indicated, according to The Daily Beast.
The settlement came the same year that a woman named Sarah Ransome alleged in a lawsuit that Maxwell and Epstein had threatened to physically hurt her or ruin her career if she were to refuse to have sex with the pair’s clients. Ransome later withdrew the suit in December for reasons that were not made public and did not issue a reason why.
Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies told The Miami Herald that Maxwell was “the one person most likely in jeopardy … because the records that are going to be unsealed have so much evidence against her.”
Maxwell is just one piece of the alleged “sexual pyramid scheme” that prosecutors say involved Epstein’s associates and employees recruiting often underage victims.
Indictment documents that were unsealed as Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy revealed at least three unnamed employees were accused of being instrumental in finding and scheduling underage girls to perform sexual acts on Epstein before paying them to recruit others.
Though the employees are not named in the documents, the alleged network matches up with the allegations made by women who said they were recruited to be underage victims of Epstein, according to The Miami Herald, The Daily Beast, and affidavits.
Maxwell did not publicly comment on Epstein’s indictment.
Thousands of court documents unsealed on August 9 from the Giuffre v. Maxwell defamation suit provided extensive detail into allegations involving Maxwell.
The 2019 documents detail Guiffre’s claims that Maxwell solicited underage girls for abuse at the hands of Epstein, as well as several of his associates, including Prince Andrew. Giuffre is quoted in the documents alleging that Epstein paid her $10,000 to have sex with the prince in Maxwell’s London home.
Another account in the documents from witness Johanna Sjoberg details told investigators about a sexual incident with Giuffre, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew that piles on to previous claims that the prince had sex with young women who were found by Epstein.
Sjoberg previously told police she met Epstein in 2003, when she was 23, according to the 2006 account previously reported by Business Insider, after she was approached on her college campus by Maxwell, who was looking for people to assist Epstein in his Palm Beach, Florida, house.
After Epstein’s death by suicide on August 10, several of his associates came into focus as possibly elevated targets for prosecution attorneys.
In addition to Maxwell, several high-profile individuals have been named in legal documents from the Epstein case as having allegedly helped him run the trafficking operation, including Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, and Nadia Marcinkova.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing women who say Epstein victimized them, told the BBC that she supported probing “others who enabled him, who assisted him, perhaps even recruited girls for him” and, if appropriate, would bring criminal charges against anyone found to be part of Epstein’s network.
“The likes of them have to be accountable in a criminal case because I think that without them he could not have accomplished what he did,” Allred said.
Epstein is the only one to have been charged in a criminal case related to his actions, when he was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy on July 8.
After his death, prosecutors likely turned their attention to Epstein’s associates in the conspiracy case against him.
On Thursday, July 2, the FBI arrested Maxwell.
Maxwell appeared in court in New Hampshire on July 2, when she was ordered to be taken into the custody of US marshals and transported to Manhattan.
She will have the right to a bail hearing in New York.
The office of the US Attorney of the Southern District of New York said she faces six counts relating to sex crimes, conspiracy, and perjury. Prosecutors based the charges on the allegations of three victims who say they were abused in the mid-1990s.
The perjury charge stems from lying under oath during a 2016 investigation into Epstein.
Prosecutors say Maxwell lied when she testified that she was never in the presence of sex toys in the Palm Beach house, never gave a massage, and wasn’t aware of Epstein having sex with anyone in the 1990s and 2000s other than herself and two others they had a consensual three-way with.
When asked if Jeffrey Epstein schemed to recruit young girls for sexual massages, Maxwell said: “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” according to the indictment.
Prosecutors say that’s also a lie.
- Read more on the Epstein case:
- Ghislaine Maxwell, the woman suspected of helping Jeffrey Epstein run a sex-abuse ring, has been arrested by the FBI
- Here’s the indictment against Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime girlfriend accused of sexually abusing young girls
- Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested at a $1 million luxury 4-bedroom New Hampshire house that was bought last year in cash
- The life of Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender and well-connected financier who died in jail awaiting sex trafficking charges
- Jeffrey Epstein died by apparent suicide in jail. Here’s everything we know about the convicted sex offender’s past, famous connections, and his court case.
- Prison officials appear to have not followed protocol around when Epstein died by suicide, according to report
- A legal fight over Jeffrey Epstein’s multi-million dollar estate could drag on for years