Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and confidante of Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested by the FBI Thursday morning in New Hampshire, the FBI said Thursday. Maxwell was arrested without incident and taken into custody around 8:30 a.m.
Maxwell, who is Epstein's former girlfriend, has been accused of overseeing his alleged sex trafficking ring. Many women have accused her of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.
At a press conference formally announcing the charges, FBI Assistant Director in Charge Bill Sweeney said they arrested "one of the villains." According to Sweeney, Maxwell was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, after having "slithered away" to an estate there where she "continued to live a life of privilege."
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss would not comment on how long Maxwell had been in New Hampshire, saying only, "that's where we found her this morning."
The indictment, filed by the Southern District of New York, charges Maxwell with six counts, including "conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts." The indictment says she "assisted, facilitated and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein's abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse " girls under age 18.
According to the indictment, beginning in "at least 1994" Maxwell "enticed and groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Jeffrey Epstein, through a variety of means and methods."
Strauss noted that the crimes in Epstein's indictment allegedly spanned from 2002-2005, and characterized Maxwell's indictment as "prequel" to that case.
"Maxwell first attempted to befriend some of Epstein's minor victims prior to their abuse, including by asking the victims about their lives, their schools, and their families," reads the indictment. "Maxwell and Epstein would spend time building friendships with minor victims by, for example, taking minor victims to the movies or shopping."
The indictment alleges that Maxwell provided a false sense of safety to underage girls who were then abused by Epstein, or Maxwell herself.
"Maxwell's presence during minor victims' interactions with Epstein, including interactions where the minor victim was undressed or that involved sex acts with Epstein, helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present," reads the indictment.
"For example, in some instances, Maxwell would massage Epstein in front of a minor victim. In other instances, Maxwell encouraged minor victims to provide massages to Epstein, including sexualized massages during which a minor victim would be fully or partially nude. Many of those massages resulted in Epstein sexually abusing the minor victims."
Maxwell allegedly groomed victims by taking them to the movies or on shopping trips, asking them about school, family and other aspects of their personal life.
"Maxwell then sought to normalize inappropriate and abusive conduct by, among other things, undressing in front of" a minor, and "being present" when a minor "undressed in front of Epstein, according to the indictment.
"Within the first year after Maxwell and Epstein met" the first minor identified in the case, Epstein began sexually abusing the victim and "Maxwell was present for and involved in some of this abuse," the indictment alleges.
Maxwell has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her "absolute rubbish."
The indictment alleges that, "in an effort to conceal her crimes, Maxwell repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct" during a 2016 deposition regarding a then pending civil litigation against Epstein.
On Thursday, Strauss said, "Maxwell lied because the truth as alleged was almost unspeakable."
Under oath Maxwell stated: "I wasn't aware that (Epstein) was having sexual activities with anyone when I was with him other than myself." Maxwell testified that she engaged in three-ways with what the indictment identifies as a "blond and brunette," but said that those were the only occasions that Epstein engaged in sexual activity without her present.
Maxwell affirmed that "in the 1990s and 2000s" she was "not aware that Mr. Epstein was having sexual activities with anyone other than (herself) and the blond and brunette."
She further testified that she had never given a massage and did not know that Epstein possessed any sex toys or devices.
Her arrest comes nearly a year after Epstein was arrested on July 6, 2019. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan about a month later, in August last year.
The 66-year-old died by apparent suicide after over a dozen lawsuits against his estate said women and teenage girls suffered sexual abuse, sometimes for years, from Epstein and his enablers at homes in Manhattan, the Virgin Islands, Paris, New Mexico and Florida.
Maxwell is currently in the custody of U.S. Marshals. After an initial hearing on Thursday she will either be released on bail or detained. If she is released on bail, Maxwell will be given a court date for arraignment in Manhattan.
As she is charged with federal crimes, she will be housed in a federal facility, and therefore could conceivably be held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein died.