By Stuart Marques
Jeffrey Epstein may be dead, but his former lover and close friend Ghislaine Maxwell is very much alive – and likely a prime target for prosecutors looking into Epstein’s sex trafficking ring that preyed on vulnerable underage girls.
“I think she will have some big problems ahead of her,” says John Connolly, co-author of “Filthy Rich,” a 2016 book about Epstein, his sexual abuse of minors and the sweetheart deal he received in Florida a decade ago, before federal prosecutors brought new sex trafficking charges against him last month.
“I’d be shocked if they don’t charge her,” Connolly says. “She was definitely a main player in this.”
She has yet to be charged with a crime, but she clearly was in the mind of U.S. Attorney General William Barr who, after Epstein’s apparent suicide in the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Aug. 10, warned that the “case will continue against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy.”
A separate investigation of Epstein’s death has already resulted in two guards being put on leave, and the transfer of the MCC warden. And on Monday, Barr reassigned the acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons as the fallout continued.
Celebrities and People in Power
Growing up in a fabulously wealthy family, Maxwell, now 57, probably could never have imagined finding herself in prosecutors’ crosshairs. The youngest of nine children of disgraced newspaper publisher Robert Maxwell, she was raised in opulence in a 53-room mansion outside London.
As the daughter of a powerful publisher and as a British socialite, the Oxford-educated Maxwell was exposed to celebrities and people in power – and very much used to getting her way. She was a director of a football club her father owned and reportedly worked at one of his publications, the European.
She came to America in late 1991, after her father, then embroiled in a financial scandal as owner of the New York Daily News, died in what was ruled an accidental drowning when he fell overboard from his yacht, named the Lady Ghislaine, near the Canary Islands.
According to reports, Maxwell eventually moved into a posh apartment on the Upper East Side and dabbled in real estate. In the early 90s, Maxwell met Epstein, with whom she had a romantic relationship. They remained close after the romance ended.
“She and Epstein had this symbiotic relationship,” says George Rush, who wrote a gossip column with his wife for the New York City tabloids. “They were of use to each other. He had money and she had the social connections he wanted.”
Rush, who had dinner with Maxwell and a mutual friend once in the mid-90s at Le Bilboquet, a French restaurant on the Upper East, said Maxwell was “charming and the picture of sparkling conversation,” chatting about her love of traveling and her passions for environmental issues.
“I would run into her occasionally on the social scene or at a premiere,” Rush said. “She always seemed to be at premieres.”
She also displayed a unique ability to mingle with and being photographed with famous people like former President Bill Clinton – she attended Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2012 – Elon Musk, Martha Stewart and Donald Trump, with his then-girlfriend Melania Knauss.
Unsealing 2,000 Pages of Documents
Then, it all began to turn dark and seamy, according to police investigators in Florida, prosecutors and court papers filed by some of Epstein’s victims, who claimed Maxwell procured underage girls for Epstein and even took part in some of the sex at Epstein’s lavish homes in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Manhattan.
Court papers filed by one victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, contended that Epstein, Maxwell and others directed her to have sex with several prominent men, including Prince Andrew of Great Britain, who has denied the allegations. Maxwell ultimately settled Giuffre’s suit out of court, paying out “millions,” according to the Miami Herald.
On Aug. 9, a day before Epstein apparently took his own life, a judge unsealed some 2,000 pages of damning documents accumulated during Giuffre’s suit.
Last week, Jennifer Araoz sued Epstein’s estate and Maxwell, accusing Epstein of raping her while she was a student at a Manhattan high school, and naming Maxwell as being deeply involved in the sex trafficking ring.
The suit says Maxwell assisted Epstein in “maintaining and protecting his sex trafficking ring. Ensuring that approximately three girls a day were made available to him for his sexual pleasure ... Maxwell provided organizational support to Epstein’s trafficking ring, identifying and hiring the recruiters,” as well as scheduling appointments and intimidating potential witnesses.”
Maxwell dropped out of sight around the time Epstein was indicted. The New York Post found her on Aug. 14, eating at an In-N-Out burger restaurant in Los Angeles and reading a book about the CIA.
Rush agrees that Maxwell seems like the prime target of prosecutors unless she has been secretly cooperating with authorities.
“The spotlight shifts to her now; the U.S. Attorney’s office needs a scalp or two,” Rush says, adding with a laugh, “and she has beautiful hair.”
“She and Epstein had this symbiotic relationship ... He had money and she had the social connections he wanted.”
Gossip columnist George Rush