Remember when Ghislaine Maxwell turned up at a burger joint in Los Angeles last summer when everyone was wondering where she was? Maybe it was a little misdirection, because when the FBI arrested the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein on Thursday, she was clear across the country in quiet Bradford, New Hampshire, reports NBC News. Developments:
- The charges: The feds say Maxwell, 58, played a "critical role" in recruiting and grooming girls as young as 14 for Epstein's sexual crimes, reports the Wall Street Journal. That gibes with what some of Epstein's victims have said. She faces six counts, including enticement and conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation and conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and perjury, according to the indictment.
- The indictment: "In particular, from at least in or about 1994, up to an including at least in or about 1997, Maxwell assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein's abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18," the indictment says. Read the full indictment via the Washington Post.
- Not just a groomer: Maxwell sometimes abused the girls herself, says Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, per BuzzFeed. For example, the indictment accuses her of giving a massage to one underage victim, who was topless. She also was often present when Epstein abused the girls during "massages" and sometimes took part, says Strauss.
- Alleged strategy: Authorities say she befriended the girls and won their trust, and would take them shopping or to the movies. Eventually, prosecutors say, she would "try to normalize sexual abuse" by talking to the girls about sex and even undressing in front of them. "All the while she was setting them up to be sexually abused by Epstein, and in some cases by Maxwell herself," says Strauss.
- Ties with Epstein: Maxwell and Epstein dated in the early 1990s, but she would remain in his life after they split and play a crucial role in organizing it. See this New York Times profile about Maxwell, in which a former investment banker describes her as "half ex-girlfriend, half employee, half best friend, and fixer.” A former Epstein employee called her the "lady of the house."
- No prince: The indictment has no mention of Prince Andrew, another associate of Epstein who faces accusations of his own, notes the AP. But prosecutors say they would "welcome" having Andrew come in to talk.
- The lying: Thursday's perjury charges stem from Maxwell's 2016 testimony about all this. She "lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable," says Strauss. Maxwell has long denied all wrongdoing.