What to Know
- Jeffrey Epstein confidante Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested Thursday morning in New Hampshire, law enforcement sources say
- Maxwell will face charges that she conspired with the disgraced financier to sexually abuse underage girls
- Epstein, a friend to presidents and captains of industry, died by suicide last August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges
Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite and heiress who became a confidante of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and was later implicated in his alleged sexual crimes, has been arrested by the FBI.
She was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, around 8:30 a.m. Thursday on charges she conspired with Epstein to sexually abuse minors. She was found living at a reclusive, million-dollar luxury home with 156 acres of rural mountainside property, federal prosecutors said.
In a brief electronic appearance in New Hampshire federal court Thursday afternoon, a judge remanded her to the custody of the U.S. Marshals and ordered her transferred to New York City. She did not enter a plea, and her attorney indicated he will seek a detention hearing in New York, a prelude to a possible bail request.
The six-count indictment in Manhattan federal court alleges that Maxwell helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14 years old, going back as far as 1994. Prosecutors say she was in the room during — and took part in — the sexual abuse of three underage girls at Epstein's Upper East Side townhouse, his Florida estate and his ranch in New Mexico. She faces up to 35 years in prison.
"This case against Ghislaine Maxwell is the prequel to the earlier case we brought against Jeffrey Epstein," Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a news conference on the indictment. The FBI said that it had been tracking her movements for some time, though she was not indicted until June 29.
The daughter of British media baron Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine was a one-time girlfriend of Epstein's and was at the high-flying investor's side for decades.
But she was also alleged to have helped Epstein groom teen girls for sex with the rich and powerful. One of those teens, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, leveled that charge against Maxwell in a 2015 defamation suit, as have a number of other women since.
"In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims," the indictment says.
Epstein, a registered sex offender who nonetheless kept company with presidents and captains of industry, was arrested last summer on new federal charges of exploiting dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
He attempted suicide in custody in late July, and then died after another suicide attempt in early August. Two of the guards tasked with monitoring Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center now face federal charges for not properly supervising him before his death.
One day before his suicide, a federal appeals court released the transcript of a 2016 deposition in which Epstein repeatedly refused to say whether Maxwell had procured young girls for him. Maxwell now faces multiple counts of perjury for allegedly lying in her own deposition about Epstein's sexual activities.
"Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable," Strauss said.
It is possible, depending on a bail ruling and other factors, that Maxwell could eventually be held in the same facility where Epstein died, law enforcement sources said. Prosecutors called her a serious flight risk and asked that she be held pending trial.
"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," they said in a filing Thursday.
Maxwell has stayed below the radar since Epstein's death, as speculation swirled about whether she could face repercussions for her friend's alleged abuses, and her whereabouts remained a mystery until her arrest. Federal prosecutors said that Maxwell paid cash through a limited liability company for the picturesque retreat where she was found, and the LLC had been established just a month before the secretive sale.
Two people familiar with the real estate deal said the description of the home matched a listing that sold for $1,070,750 last December. A person familiar with the transaction, which was shrouded in secrecy, told NBC News the buyer was an anonymous "mystery woman," leading them to wonder if it was a big-name actress or celebrity.
The 4,300-square foot estate sits at the top of a half-mile long driveway, making it an ideal location for anyone looking to stay hidden. A handful of residents of Bradford, a town of 1,600 people, said they had never seen Maxwell in town nor had they heard of her before Thursday.
The FBI said that they knew Maxwell had been in New Hampshire, but they were waiting on the indictment to make the arrest.
In a statement sent to NBC News following the arrest, a former alleged victim of Epstein said that she and other victims can now have some sense of relief.
"Today, my fellow Epstein survivors and I are able to take a breath of relief, as Maxwell's arrest means some justice for survivors can exist," said Jennifer Araoz, who said in a TODAY show interview last year that Epstein abused her when she was 15 years old. "For years, I feared Epstein and his ring. Maxwell was the center of that sex trafficking ring. Now that the ring has been taken down, I know that I can't be hurt anymore."
Araoz said in a video interview with NBC News that she believes Maxwell "knows so much that [Epstein] also knew, so this is way for us to get our justice."
Dan Kaiser, an attorney representing other Epstein victims, called Maxwell "the architect of Epstein's sex ring and can now be held accountable."
"As for Ghislaine's importance in Jeffrey Epstein's organization as well as her loose affiliation with the truth, we have worked for years to expose both. Today brings us one step close to justice," said attorney Brad Edwards, who is also representing victims.
No court date has yet been set for the arraignment.
"Today we announce the arrest of one of the villains in this investigation," William Sweeney, the FBI assistant director-in-charge in New York, said at the news conference, adding that Maxwell had "slithered away to a gorgeous property to New Hampshire, continuing to life a life of privilege" before being caught.
Her arrest drew calls for justice at the highest levels.
"Epstein got a crooked, sweetheart deal years ago that protected his coconspirators, like Maxwell. Maxwell has been on the run for months because she too hoped to escape justice. We can’t let that happen again -- her victims deserve their day in court," Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said in a statement Thursday.
Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has pushed aggressively for the Justice Department to investigate what was described as a sweetheart deal that gave Epstein and others immunity from federal charges in 2007.
Then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta was involved in negotiating that deal -- and 12 years later, he resigned as Labor Secretary amid criticism of the arrangement.
The case also ensnared British royalty, bringing an end to the royal duties of Epstein friend Prince Andrew. Prosecutors have been seeking to speak with him for months about his friendship with the financier and the allegations of abuse.
"We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us," Strauss said Thursday. "We would like to have the benefit of his statement."