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Latest indictment says Ghislaine Maxwell groomed girl as young as 14 for Epstein’s abuse

Ghislaine Maxwell. (Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images/TNS)

Ghislaine Maxwell was indicted Monday on federal sex trafficking charges involving a victim who says she was 14 when she was groomed by Maxwell to be sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein at his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion.

She is the fourth underage victim prosecutors allege Maxwell helped recruit and groom for the now-deceased New York financier to abuse. In one case, Maxwell is accused of participating in the abuse herself.

Maxwell normalized sexual contact with the girl by discussing sexual topics in front of her and being in her presence when the girl was naked in Epstein’s massage room in his Palm Beach home, the new indictment says.

Jeffrey Epstein. (New York State Sex Offender Registry/TNS)

Under the guise of a massage, Epstein engaged in sex acts with the girl numerous times between 2001 and 2004 and was paid hundreds of dollars in cash and given gifts by Maxwell or other Epstein employees, the indictment alleges.

Maxwell’s new indictment includes a federal sex trafficking charge unrelated to interstate travel. The new victim did not cross state lines, like the other victims mentioned in the previous indictment. But the charge attempts to further establish Maxwell’s role at the center of Epstein’s sex trafficking enterprise.

Multiple victims have detailed an elaborate scheme by which Maxwell allegedly went in search of girls, at colleges, spas, resorts, gyms and art schools. She allegedly offered them the opportunity to earn money for their education, or assistance with their modeling careers in exchange for giving the wealthy, connected New York money man massages at his various homes in New York, Palm Beach, New Mexico, Paris and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Epstein and Maxwell also allegedly pressured the girls to recruit other girls, including others under the age of 18, to give Epstein “sexualized massages,” according to the indictment.

“Maxwell’s presence as an adult woman helped put the victims at ease as Maxwell and Epstein intended,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in announcing the charges against Maxwell last year.

The addition of a new victim means that Maxwell would likely face more prison time if convicted, said former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein.

Maxwell’s brother Ian released a statement in response to the new indictment dismissing the legal significance of the new charges.

“The government has admitted how weak its indictment is,” Ian said. “So it has added another anonymous accuser from 20 years ago. That does not strengthen the government’s case.”

The government is also alleging that Maxwell helped recruit three other minors: Victim No. 1, who was abused by Epstein and Maxwell from 1994 to 1997, traveling with them to other states; Victim No. 2, who was allegedly transported from out of state to be molested by Epstein at his ranch in New Mexico in 1996; and Victim No. 3, who was abused by Epstein multiple times in London in 1994 and 1995, according to the indictment.

Maxwell’s July 2020 arrest came nearly one year after Epstein was arrested and charged with sex crimes in the summer of 2019. His arrest followed renewed attention to the remarkably lenient plea deal he struck with federal prosecutors a decade earlier. That deal was the subject of the Miami Herald’s 2018 “Perversion of Justice” series. Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell in August 2019, a month after he was rearrested. His death was ruled a suicide.

Since that time, more than 100 women have filed claims against Epstein’s estate, claiming that they were raped, or otherwise sexually abused or exploited by Epstein. Many of them have also filed civil lawsuits that have named Maxwell as being involved in Epstein’s sex trafficking operation.

Maxwell is being held without bail in a Brooklyn federal jail as she awaits trial, currently scheduled for this July. Her requests to be released on bail to better prepare for her trial have been rejected three times by U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan, who cited concerns that Maxwell poses too great a risk of flight to avoid the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence.

Maxwell’s team has sought to have the preexisting charges against Maxwell thrown out on numerous grounds, including that the activity in the original indictment, alleged to have occurred between 1994 and 1997, was too old and that the grand jury that returned the indictment, which was issued in White Plains, New York, rather than Manhattan, due to COVID-19-related closures, was too white.

Federal prosecutors pointed out in a letter accompanying the new indictment that it was returned by a grand jury in Manhattan, rendering her complaint about the grand jury venue moot. Prosecutors said in the letter that they have taken statements from more than 250 witnesses — statements that the prosecutors plan to turn over to Maxwell’s team next month.

When Maxwell was arrested last July, she was living on a 156-acre estate that had been purchased the previous year through an anonymous shell company. Maxwell had toured the property using a pseudonym, according to federal prosecutors, and her name had not appeared on documents related to the sale, someone with knowledge of the transaction told the Herald.

The new victim places Maxwell at Epstein’s Palm Beach estate at about the same time as another victim, Virginia Giuffre, who sued Maxwell in 2015. Maxwell has sought to keep salacious passages from depositions she gave in that lawsuit under seal because they are said to contain details about Epstein and Maxwell’s sex crimes. Giuffre claims that Maxwell recruited her in 2001 when she was 17 and working as a spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach club owned by former President Donald Trump. Giuffre has said she was abused by Epstein for years and that Epstein and Maxwell directed her to have sex with numerous powerful friends of theirs, including Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew. Both those men have denied that allegation.

The suit was settled in 2017 and the Herald has since sued to have documents related to the case unsealed and released to the public.

The U.S. District Judge in that matter, Loretta A. Preska, ruled in mid-2020 that there was a presumption of public right to know about the case and ordered the release of thousands of pages of documents. But Maxwell’s attorneys have aggressively sought to limit what is released to the public or black out embarrassing details about Maxwell’s sex life.

The materials from the case have taken on an even greater significance as two depositions Maxwell gave in 2016 formed the basis for two perjury charges Maxwell faces in her criminal case.

Maxwell’s lawyers have argued that federal prosecutors improperly accessed the depositions to bring the charges against her, as they were supposed to be kept secret under a protective order in the case.

Maxwell’s lawyers succeeded in convincing Preska to keep private the details of Maxwell’s consensual sexual relations with adults.

In the most recent release of Maxwell’s second transcript from the Giuffre suit, the alleged Epstein accomplice denies having been present when Epstein received sexual massages from underage girls. And a transcript of a deposition given by former Epstein housekeeper Juan Alessi accused Maxwell of taking topless pictures of young girls and keeping them in an album at Epstein’s home in Palm Beach.

Maxwell has also sued the Epstein estate, being settled in the U.S. Virgin Islands, claiming the disgraced financier had promised to cover her legal bills. Epstein did so, she alleged, until he died, after which the estate halted support. Lawyers for the Epstein estate insist there was no agreement, written or verbal, to cover Maxwell’s now-formidable legal expenses.


© 2021 Miami Herald
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