the epstein case

What We Know About Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s Alleged Madam

Ghislaine Maxwell.
Ghislaine Maxwell. Photo: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

On Saturday night, billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on charges that he recruited dozens of underage girls into a sex-trafficking ring in Florida and New York between 2002 and 2005. The details of his indictment became public on Monday morning when federal prosecutors unsealed the sex-trafficking charges against him. Though Epstein is the only person named, many powerful people with ties to the 66-year-old are likely feeling a little nervous about the consequences of the billionaire’s arrest — including Ghislaine Maxwell, a confidante of Epstein’s who has been connected to him for more than two decades and is alleged to have played a critical role in recruiting and grooming underage girls into his sex-trafficking ring. Though Maxwell is a key figure in the Epstein case, she has not yet been arrested and has repeatedly denied accusations against her. As the details of Epstein’s alleged crimes become clearer, however, we’re likely to hear her name come up again and again.

Here’s everything we know about the alleged madam so far.

She’s a 57-year-old British socialite.

Maxwell is the daughter of publisher Robert Maxwell — in short, she comes from money. Per the Wall Street Journal, she grew up and attended university in England, then moved to the United States in 1991 after her father fell to his death from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine. (Epstein reportedly uses a yacht with the same name to transport women from St. Thomas in the Caribbean to his own private island, which locals have nicknamed “Pedophile Island.”) Exactly how Maxwell and Epstein met is unclear, but the two reportedly dated for a short period of time around 1992, then remained close friends after breaking up. Per a 2002 New York Magazine profile of Epstein, Maxwell — who has been linked to Epstein for more than two decades — “lent a little pizzazz to the lower-profile Epstein.” The story continues:

The Oxford-educated Maxwell, described by many as a man-eater (she flies her own helicopter and was recently seen dining with [Bill] Clinton at Nello’s on Madison Avenue), lives in her own townhouse a few blocks away. Epstein is frequently seen around town with a bevy of comely young women but there has been no boldfaced name to replace Maxwell. “You may read about Jeffrey in the social columns, but there is much more to him than that,” says Jeffrey T. Leeds of the private equity firm Leeds Weld & Co.

She also, in 2012, founded the TerraMar Project, a nonprofit that advocates for protecting ocean waters.

She’s friendly with a number of notable figures, including Bill Clinton and British royal-family members.

Over the years, Maxwell has been photographed alongside many prominent, powerful people who are linked to Epstein, such as Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, and lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Maxwell was even a guest at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010.

She’s been accused of recruiting and grooming girls and women into Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring.

According to multiple court filings reviewed by the Miami Herald, lawyers for one of Epstein’s alleged victims have claimed that Epstein and Maxwell acted as the leaders of an “organized crime family” and that Maxwell helped traffic girls and women to powerful figures. Per the documents, Maxwell lured the alleged victims into the sex ring by offering them modeling, fashion, and educational opportunities. Furthermore, in 2009 depositions, two former house managers testified that Maxwell kept photos of young women in sexual acts.

Though Epstein is the only one named in the new indictment, there are court documents that could shed light on Maxwell’s alleged involvement: around 2,000 pages from a 2015 defamation case filed by a woman named Virginia Giuffre, who publicly claimed in a 2009 lawsuit against Epstein that Maxwell had recruited her into Epstein’s sex ring to be a “sex slave” when she was just 16 and working as changing-room assistant at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. After being recruited, she says, she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz; she also claimed in the 2009 lawsuit, which was settled out of court, that Maxwell and Epstein sexually assaulted her, the Wall Street Journal reports. In response to Giuffre’s claims since 2009, Maxwell has called them “entirely false” on numerous occasions, compelling the latter to file the 2015 lawsuit. But the case never went to trial: In May 2017, it was settled the day before the trial was scheduled to start, and a U.S. District Court judge ordered a significant portion of the filings to be sealed; the records that were made public were heavily blacked out.

Furthermore, this past April, Giuffre filed a new defamation lawsuit against Dershowitz, alleging that he falsely claimed that she made up the allegations against him; in that suit, another woman, Maria Farmer, said in a sworn affidavit that Maxwell and Epstein sexually assaulted her in 1996 while she was working on an art project at the Ohio Mansion of L Brands CEO Les Wexner.

(Additionally, in 2017, a woman named Sarah Ransome alleged in a lawsuit that Maxwell and Epstein had threatened to physically hurt her or ruin her career were she to refuse to have sex with the pair’s clients. Ransome withdrew the suit in December 2018 for reasons that were not made public.)

Sanford L. Bohrer, the Miami Herald’s attorney, has urged the New York appeals court to prioritize unsealing the approximate 2,000 pages of documents related to the 2015 defamation case, as the allegations against Maxwell are “an issue of critical public concern.” And speaking of the potential consequences of Epstein’s indictment, David Boies, the lawyer representing Giuffre, told the Herald, “The one person most likely in jeopardy is Maxwell because the records that are going to be unsealed have so much evidence against her.”

On July 2 of this year, though, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered that some of the aforementioned sealed documents be unsealed. But, predictably, Maxwell would prefer that the 2,000-some documents remain sealed. On July 11, a conference was scheduled to determine whether all the documents should be unsealed, but the day before, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska postponed the conference to July 25, per Maxwell’s request. (According to Bloomberg, one of Maxwell’s lawyers told Preska that to have the news conference on July 11 would be “premature,” as the case has not yet been officially returned to her court.)

This post has been updated.

Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s Alleged Madam?