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‘Long time coming’: Jeffrey Epstein victims cheer arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell

She is accused of procuring girls who were sexually abused by the Palm Beach financier, who died in his jail cell in 2019. Now Maxwell faces charges.

Jeffrey Epstein’s reputed longtime madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, has been arrested by federal authorities and is in the custody of federal authorities. She was detained at 8:30 Thursday morning in a residence in the small town of Bradford, New Hampshire.

The British socialite allegedly helped procure girls for the financier, who died in August 2019 in a jail cell after being arrested himself a month earlier on federal charges of sex trafficking.

Maxwell has been charged with four counts of sex trafficking a minor and two counts of perjury, according to the federal indictment.

The charges involve three girls who were under the age of 18 when Maxwell allegedly recruited them to engage in sexual acts with Epstein from the years of 1994 through 1997. According to the charges, Maxwell “groomed” the three girls for Epstein and, in one case, took part in the sexual activity. The girls were allegedly abused at multiple locations, including Epstein’s New York mansion, his estate in Palm Beach, his ranch in New Mexico and Maxwell’s personal residence in London.

Related: Perversion of Justice: The Miami Herald's investigation of Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein
Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, gestures as she speaks during a Thursday news conference to announce charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her alleged role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein in New York. [ JOHN MINCHILLO | AP ]

“Maxwell’s presence as an adult woman helped put the victims at ease as Maxwell and Epstein intended,” said Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney, in announcing the charges against Maxwell at a Thursday news conference.

Speaking about the perjury charges brought against Maxwell, based on statements Maxwell made in 2016 in a civil suit brought by one of Epstein and Maxwell’s alleged victims, Strauss said, “Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable.”

Federal prosecutors asked that Maxwell be held without bail, saying she “poses an extreme risk of flight.”

“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,” prosecutors wrote in a filing Thursday.

Maxwell made an appearance by video before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea Johnstone in New Hampshire Thursday afternoon and is being transferred by the U.S. Marshals Service to New York, where she will face a hearing on the government’s request to deny her bail.

Before the call started, a woman with her British accent could be heard sobbing on the line saying, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand.”

The Herald asked Maxwell’s attorney, Larry Vogelman, whether the voice had been Maxwell’s and he said that he had not heard the voice and that his client had no comment on the charges and the government’s request for her to be held without bail.

The Maxwell indictment comes nearly a year after the new charges were filed against Epstein for alleged crimes between 2002 and 2006

“This case against Ghislaine Maxwell is the prequel to the earlier case we brought against Jeffrey Epstein,” Strauss said.

Epstein’s charges were driven in part by the Miami Herald’s Perversion of Justice series, which detailed Epstein’s lenient sentence for sex charges a decade earlier. Alexander Acosta was U.S. attorney for Southern Florida at the time of the initial sentence, personally approving a non-prosecution agreement that ensured Epstein was spared the prospect of federal prison. Epstein served a short stint in the Palm Beach County jail.

Epstein was found hanging in his cell in New York City the day after thousands of court documents were released detailing Maxwell’s role in allegedly luring hundreds of women and underage girls to his various homes — and providing new information on the powerful men who befriended Epstein and are suspected in some cases to have had sex with the women and girls.

The Epstein case is also the focus of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which is looking into whether there was any corruption on the part of federal prosecutors who failed to bring charges against Epstein in 2007-2008 when they had the case.

A 1991 photo Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of late British publisher Robert Maxwell, reading a statement in Spanish in which she expressed her family's gratitude to the Spanish authorities, aboard the "Lady Ghislaine" in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Maxwell, a British socialite who was accused by many women of helping procure underage sex partners for Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday in New Hampshire, according to the FBI. [ DOMINIQUE MOLLARD | AP ]

Maxwell is the daughter of the late British media mogul Robert Maxwell, who himself died under mysterious circumstances in 1991.

Maxwell’s whereabouts have been a subject of much interest since the new charges were filed against Epstein. Her lawyer claimed last year that Maxwell’s e-mail server had been hacked.

At times she appeared to play a cat-and-mouse game with the public, such as when she was photographed at a Los Angeles area In-N-Out Burger sitting at a table while holding a spy book — a photo published in the New York Post last August.

Rumors have linked both Maxwell and Epstein to intelligence agencies.

Federal authorities were monitoring Maxwell’s movements throughout the course of the investigation, said William Sweeney, the assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office.

“We had been discretely keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts as we worked this investigation and more recently we learned that 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,” Sweeney said.

Lawyers representing alleged victims of Epstein and Maxwell said that their clients were relieved to see the charges.

“Today is a long time coming for many victims,” said Bradley Edwards, an attorney who represents more than 20 alleged victims. “I have talked with many of my clients this morning who are relieved that justice is being served. They are so thankful for the dedicated work of the New York prosecutors.”

Spencer Kuvin, an attorney representing a number of other alleged victims, said his clients hope the charges against Maxwell are the first of many against other Epstein associates alleged to have taken part in the sexual abuse of underage women.

“With the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, this welcomed news will hopefully be the first of many co-conspirators to face the consequences of this horrific crimes,” Kuvin said in a statement.

In this 2019 file photo, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a sexual assault victim, speaks during a press conference outside a Manhattan court in New York. British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday on charges she helped procure underage sex partners for financier Jeffrey Epstein. Among the most sensational accusations was a claim by one Epstein victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew at her London townhouse. [ BEBETO MATTHEWS | AP ]

One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, stated in a defamation suit against Maxwell that Maxwell had recruited her in 2000 to be a personal masseuse for Epstein. Maxwell had seen Giuffre around the time of Giuffre’s 17th birthday reading at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, where Giuffre had been working at the time as a spa assistant, Giuffre said.

Giuffre said in court documents that she had been directed by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with a number of prominent men, including Prince Andrew, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and Hyatt Hotels magnate Tom Pritzker, among others. The men have denied her accusations. The suit was settled in 2017. Dershowitz and Giuffre, meantime, have sued each other for defamation.

Epstein’s many prominent friends over the years have included President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton. Giuffre said she was not directed to have sex with either of those men and had no knowledge of them having sex with any of the other girls allegedly recruited by Epstein and Maxwell.

Strauss said Thursday that the investigation into Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators is ongoing and encouraged anyone who believes they were victimized or has information about abuse to come forward.

She didn’t rule out trying to seek cooperation from Maxwell, despite the perjury charges.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said that Maxwell could be looking at 10 to 20 years in federal prison, adding the fact that federal prosecutors are seeking her cooperation suggests there could be high-profile targets on their radar.

“They will use all of this to pressure her into cooperating against other known and unknown conspirators,‘' said Weinstein who is now in private practice. “Those co-conspirators would have to be high-profile individuals to warrant accepting her cooperation.‘'

The fact that the case is being handled by the office’s public corruption unit, which typically handles investigations into misdeeds by public officials, has raised questions among some legal observers about the scope of the current federal investigation.

“If I was Alexander Acosta today, I would be having a very lousy weekend,‘' said Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director.

“This case is not over. I’ve supervised these kinds of cases in big cities and I’ve never seen public corruption prosecutors involved and if they are still in it, there is a reason for it.‘'

Acosta, who resigned last year shortly after Epstein’s arrest, would be someone that public corruption prosecutors would be looking at, he said.

“Because of the lenient posture that Acosta took with Epstein, it begs the question as to why he chose to go lightly on Epstein, and that question, and at what level and for whom he was doing this for — is likely the subject matter of investigation.‘'

Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, points to a photo of Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epsteion. Maxwell was arrested Thursday for her alleged role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls by Epstein in New York. [ JOHN MINCHILLO | AP ]