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Ghislaine Maxwell arrested in Bradford, N.H., on charges in Jeffrey Epstein scandal, FBI says

Audrey Strauss, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, spoke during a news conference on Thursday.
Audrey Strauss, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, spoke during a news conference on Thursday.Michael Nagle/Bloomberg


Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who was an associate of the late wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in Bradford, N.H., on Thursday by FBI and New York police detectives on charges of helping Epstein to sexually abuse and exploit minors — and lying about it under oath.

Maxwell was arrested around 8:30 a.m. without incident and appeared before a magistrate judge in federal court in New Hampshire, where prosecutors are asking that she be detained, Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference.

Judge Andrea Johnstone ordered Maxwell to remain in custody at a brief hearing via videoconference in federal court in New Hampshire, where one of her attorneys, Lawrence Vogelman, did not seek an immediate bail hearing because her lawyers plan to make those arguments after she is transferred to New York, The Washington Post reported Thursday evening.

In a court filing, prosecutors said Maxwell should stay behind bars pending trial because she might flee given her ‘‘extensive international ties,‘' noting she has citizenship in two countries and three passports in her name. Maxwell, 58, faces the possibility of 35 years in prison if convicted, and has ‘‘absolutely no reason to stay in the United States,‘' prosecutors argued in the filing.

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According to prosecutors, Maxwell and Epstein together would groom girls into participating in sexually abusive behavior by first building a rapport with them through shopping trips, taking them to the movies, or just spending time with them. As the ties strengthened, Maxwell allegedly would introduce sexualized behavior, ultimately leading to Epstein sexually abusing the girls, sometimes with Maxwell’s participation or presence.

“Maxwell’s presence as an adult woman helped put the victims at ease as Maxwell and Epstein intended,‘' Strauss told reporters at a New York City press conference live streamed on Facebook. “This grooming process left the minor victims susceptible to sexual abuse.”

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Strauss and William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said the investigation that led to Maxwell’s indictment has been underway for about a year, during which law enforcement was tracking Maxwell’s movements in the United States.

“We’ve been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts as we worked this investigation,” said Sweeney. “More recently, we learned she slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims lived with the trauma inflicted on them years ago.”

Epstein, once a wealthy benefactor at both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, killed himself in a federal detention center in New York last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges brought by Strauss’s office. The charges could have led to a life sentence. He had been convicted a decade before, in Florida on sex charges, but his light punishment in that case — after allegations that he had molested dozens of girls — had sparked intense criticism.

Federal prosecutors in the Maxwell case allege that girls were sexually assaulted in Epstein’s Manhattan residence, his home in Palm Beach Florida, and a sprawling ranch in Santa Fe. Authorities also allege that Maxwell found one of the three victims in London where she then engaged in the pattern of grooming her in the same way she had done with two girls in the United States.

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The indictment against Maxwell, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged that she played a role “in the sexual abuse and exploitation of multiple minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein,” specifically three girls identified in court papers as Minor Victim-1, Minor Victim-2, and Minor Victim-3.

Maxwell is charged with conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and two counts of perjury.

“From at least in or about 1994, up to and 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 said.

“As part and in furtherance of their scheme to abuse minor victims, Ghislaine Maxwell, the defendant, and Jeffrey Epstein enticed and caused minor victims to travel to Epstein’s residences in different states, which Maxwell knew and intended would result in their grooming for and subjugation to sexual abuse,” the indictment said.

The government also alleges that Maxwell committed perjury in 2016 when she was questioned under oath in a civil lawsuit then pending in US District Court in Manhattan. “In an effort to conceal her crimes, Maxwell repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct,” the indictment said.

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“Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable,” Strauss said.. “Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, and then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them. She pretended to be a woman they could trust.”

The indictment includes specific exchanges during the deposition the government alleges qualify for prosecution for lying under oath.

Q. Did Jeffrey Epstein have a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages? If you know.

A. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Q. List all the people under the age of 18 that you interacted with at any of Jeffrey’s properties?

A. I’m not aware of anybody that I interacted with, other than obviously [the plaintiff] who was 17 at this point.

Maxwell has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her “absolute rubbish.”

Strauss also said that prosecutors are willing to hear from Britain’s Prince Andrew, who announced last year he was withdrawing from his royal duties amid renewed public attention to a woman’s claim that she had several sexual encounters with the prince at Epstein’s behest, starting when she was 17.

Attorneys for Prince Andrew and Strauss’s predecessor have publicly feuded over the fact that the British royal has never disclosed to American law enforcement what he knows about Epstein and Maxwell. Prince Andrew has denied wrongdoing.

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“We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us,‘' Strauss said. “We would like the benefit of his statement.”

Epstein’s friends have also included President Trump and former president Bill Clinton. Trump told New York magazine in 2002 that Epstein was a “terrific guy” whom he had known for 15 years.

Epstein’s ties at Harvard and MIT over the years prompted soul-searching and investigations at the two institutions. Last summer, Maxwell was reportedly hiding out on the North Shore, in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Witnesses said she had even given a talk at a Rockport elementary school.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.