- Financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide 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 with the financier Jeffrey Epstein.
- Epstein’s onetime reported girlfriend and longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell has come 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.
- Here’s what we know about Maxwell, an Oxford-educated socialite with ties to Epstein.
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Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide 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 newly unsealed court documents that Epstein used an extensive network of employees and close associates to target and recruit underage girls for sexual relationships.
One of Epstein’s alleged employees, the British-born socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, 57, 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.
Despite not being named in the most recent indictment of Epstein and denying any wrongdoing, Maxwell has previously been named as Epstein’s madam in testimony given to media outlets and in legal documents created in a defamation suit against her.
As a result, the Oxford graduate has come under a sharper spotlight nearly two decades after first appearing alongside New York highfliers like Donald Trump, who was then a real-estate developer.
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.
- Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
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.
- Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images
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.
Two women who alleged they were abused by Epstein pointed to Maxwell as the figure who drew them toward the financier.
Maria Farmer alleged earlier this 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 alleged 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.
- Davidoff Studios/Getty Images
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 top spot in New York society.
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.
- Screenshot via Google Maps
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.
- Florida Southern District Court
The 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 could turn their attention to Epstein’s associates in the conspiracy case against him.
Read more on the Epstein case: