Jeffrey Epstein's ex-girlfriend charged after FBI arrest
Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and long-time girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, has been charged with allegedly helping recruit, groom and abuse the billionaire's victims.
Maxwell, who lived for years with Epstein and was his frequent travel companion on trips around the world, was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire about 8.30am local time (10.30pm AEST).
"Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend, and groom victims for abuse. In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself," Audrey Strauss, the acting Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said.
She is also accused of lying to authorities during previous investigations into Epstein.
"Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable," Ms 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 … all the while she was setting them up to be sexually abused by Epstein and in some cases by Maxwell herself."
William F Sweeney Jr, an assistant director at the FBI, said investigators had been "discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell's whereabouts" since Epstein's arrest last year.
"More recently we learned she'd slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago.
"We moved when we were ready and Ms Maxwell was arrested without incident."
He said: "Like Epstein, Ms Maxwell chose to blatantly disregard the law and her responsibility as an adult, using whatever means she had at her disposal to lure vulnerable youth into behaviour they should never have been exposed and which creates lasting harm."
CNN earlier reported she had been charged with six counts in connection with the ongoing federal investigation into Epstein's accomplices.
The charges include 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 two counts of perjury, according to a federal indictment unsealed today.
"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 MORE:60 MINUTES: Inside Jeffrey Epstein's international sex trafficking ring
Those victims, according to the indictment, included girls as young as 14 years old.
Maxwell is expected to face court later on Thursday.
Epstein killed himself in a federal detention centre in New York last year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell, whose whereabouts had been unclear since Epstein's arrest last year, has been under investigation for allegedly facilitating Epstein's recruitment of young girls and women. She has been named in lawsuits filed by multiple women who accused her of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex.
Comment has been sought from Maxwell's lawyers.
She has previously repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her "absolute rubbish".
Among the most sensational accusations was a claim by one Epstein victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew at her London townhouse.
Ms Giuffre bolstered her allegations with a picture of her, Prince Andrew and Maxwell that she said was taken at the time.
Prince Andrew denied her story.
Maxwell was described in a lawsuit by another Epstein victim, Sarah Ransome, as the "highest-ranking employee" of Epstein's alleged sex trafficking enterprise. She oversaw and trained recruiters, developed recruiting plans and helped conceal the activity from law enforcement, the lawsuit alleged.
– Reported with CNN and Associated Press