Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday morning and charged with procuring young victims for the disgraced financier's child sex trafficking operation.
Maxwell was taken into custody in New Hampshire and is expected to make her first court appearance later Thursday.
A federal grand jury in New York indicted Maxwell on perjury and conspiracy charges that accuse her of “helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims” between 1994 and 1997. Both allegedly knew the victims were under age 18 and as young as 14.
Maxwell and Epstein enticed and lured the victims to Epstein’s homes scattered across the United States and abroad, “which Maxwell knew and intended would result in their grooming for and subjection to sexual abuse,” the indictment charged.
“Moreover, in an effort to conceal her crimes, Maxwell repeatedly lied about her conduct,” including when she gave sworn testimony in 2016, the indictment charged.
Court documents describe elaborate schemes in which Maxwell and Epstein allegedly accompanied victims on shopping trips and movie outings, all designed to put the girls at ease in preparation for more intimate encounters.
"Having developed a rapport with a victim, Maxwell would try to normalize sexual abuse ... by among other things discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed and being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein," prosecutors alleged.
Epstein, while awaiting trial on the trafficking charges last year, committed suicide in a federal detention center in New York.
Following Epstein's death, federal authorities vowed to continue the investigation and have sought, but so far failed, to obtain the cooperation of Britain's Prince Andrew, a friend of Epstein.
Facing allegations that Epstein once forced a 17-year-old girl to have sex with the prince, Andrew announced in November that he was stepping away from his public duties as a royal. The prince and Buckingham Palace cast the allegations as "false and without any foundation."
With Epstein gone, however, much speculation has swirled around Maxwell, a British socialite also described in civil court records as a co-conspirator accused of recruiting girls to perform sex acts on Epstein.
Maxwell is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, a publishing tycoon and former member of the British Parliament who died in 1991 after falling overboard his luxury yacht, Lady Ghislaine, named after the youngest of his nine children.
The six-count indictment filed Thursday outlines an alleged partnership between Epstein and Maxwell in which the pair went to great lengths to procure young victims.
Over the years, Maxwell allegedly facilitated the victims' travel to Epstein's homes in New York, Florida, New Mexico and London for the expressed purpose of engaging in sex acts with the financier.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said Maxwell repeatedly lied about her conduct and Epstein's actions in 2016, during a deposition in a related case.
"Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable," Strauss said at a briefing in New York. "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 ... Today, after many years, Ghislaine Maxwell finally stands charged for her role in these crimes."
New York FBI chief William Sweeney, Jr. said investigators had been monitoring Maxwell's movements, at some point determining that she had "slithered away" to a "gorgeous" home in New Hampshire, where she was arrested Thursday without incident.
The announcement of the case against Maxwell was the first public action taken by Strauss since she was appointed to replace Geoffrey Berman, following his abrupt ouster last month by Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump.
Berman's office, the most high-profile district within the sprawling Justice Department, has been engaged in various investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration, including an ongoing inquiry into the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
"We were working hard on this investigation this past year," Strauss said. "It’s not easy to put together a case that goes back that far. There’s nothing other than we did the investigation, and we were ready at this time to proceed."
Of the pursuit of Prince Andrew's cooperation, Strauss said: "We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk to us. We would like to have the benefit of his statement."
In court filings asking that Maxwell remain in custody awaiting trial, prosecutors argued that the evidence against her and the prospect of a long prison sentence, if convicted, offered "strong incentive" to flee to another country.
"That risk is only amplified by the defendant's extensive international ties, her citizenship in two foreign countries, her wealth, and her lack of meaningful ties to the United States," prosecutors wrote. "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."
Maxwell is a citizen of France, the United Kingdom and the United States, and has passports in all three countries.
Prosecutors cited travel records showing Maxwell has been on at least 15 international flights to the United Kingdom, Japan, Qatar and other locations in the past three years.
They also said Maxwell has had more than 15 bank accounts since 2016, with balances as high as $20 million. She earned $15 million from selling a property in New York.
"The defendant's international connections and significant financial means would present clear risk of flight under normal circumstances, but in this case, the risk of flight is exacerbated by the transient nature of the defendant's current lifestyle," prosecutors said, adding that Maxwell has been in hiding since Epstein was indicted last year and made efforts to avoid getting found, including changing her phone number and ordering packages in another name.
Prosecutors said Maxwell's most recent hiding place was a 156-acre property bought in cash in December 2019 in Bradford, New Hampshire.
Jessica Roth, professor at Cardozo School of Law and former federal prosecutor in the Manhattan office, said the charges "reflect the other shoe dropping" in the case against Epstein.
"The indictment against Epstein made clear that he did not act alone and was assisted significantly by others in his sex trafficking crimes," Roth said.