All Eyes Are on Alleged Jeffrey Epstein Recruiter Ghislaine Maxwell - Rolling Stone
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With Jeffrey Epstein Dead, the Search Is on for Alleged Recruiter Ghislaine Maxwell

According to court documents, the mysterious socialite helped recruit young girls for the late sex-offender’s coterie

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend Batman Forever/R. McDonald Event on June 13, 1995 in New York City.Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend Batman Forever/R. McDonald Event on June 13, 1995 in New York City.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 1995.

Patrick McMullan/Getty Image

Update 8/15/2019: Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam, was spotted (and photographed) at an In-N-Out Burger in Universal City, Los Angeles. After being spotted, the 57-year-old reportedly told a diner at the popular burger joint, “Well, I guess this is the last time I’ll be eating here!” She was also apparently reading a book, titled The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives.  


Jeffrey Epstein is gone, and now everyone is looking for the heiress-apparent of his cache of secrets, the international woman of mystery, Ghislaine Maxwell. Authorities reportedly don’t know where she is, but she appears to be in their sights. “Let me assure you that case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” and that “any co-conspirators should not rest easy,” Attorney General William Barr said Monday.

The Department of Justice is now fully humiliated by, first, their lenient treatment of the convicted child sex trafficker, and then for letting him die in their custody. DOJ lawyers had cravenly agreed with Epstein’s legal team in 2008 to keep the case quiet, but last year, dogged reporting from the Miami Herald’s Julie Brown finally brought the trafficked women’s stories to light. And last week, the day preceding Epstein’s death, a New York court released over 2,000 pages of lurid details.

The documents emerged from a defamation case against Maxwell, brought by one of Epstein’s accusers: Virginia Giuffre, who in 2015 went public with allegations of being procured at age 15 by Maxwell, repeatedly assaulted by Epstein and forced to have sex with powerful men including Prince Andrew (who has denied it).

Maxwell called the story “obvious lies” and for that, Giuffre sued her for defamation in 2016. Depositions in the case expose Ghislaine Maxwell’s alleged crimes: Giuffre was fresh out of foster care and a rehab runaway when Maxwell allegedly started grooming her 20 years ago. Giuffre’s lawyers also deposed other girls who accused Maxwell of procuring and grooming them for sex with Epstein and other men, backing up and expanding on Giuffre’s trafficking story. Their depositions, and those of butlers, house managers and private pilots suggest an almost industrial-scale operation. The girls — now women — added more prominent names to the list of men alleged to have had sex with underage girls, including former Clinton Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Sen. George Mitchell — who served as a fact finder for Clinton’s Middle East peace process — and MIT artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky. (Mitchell and Richardson immediately denied the allegations; Minsky died in 2016.)

In the latest documents, one Manhattan billionaire’s butler recalled encountering an unnamed 15-year-old Swedish girl who told him Maxwell took her passport after she refused to have sex with Epstein while on Jeffrey’s private island. The girl was “shaking uncontrollably” and couldn’t remember how she had gotten off the island and back to the U.S, he said.

Another witness-accuser, Johanna Sjoberg, recalled in a deposition how Maxwell appeared on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University, a small, private Christian school, in February or March of 2001. “She approached and asked if I could tell her how to find someone to work at her house,” Sjoberg testified. Sjoberg said she’d take the job herself. How was a Christian-college freshman to suspect a woman who spoke the Queen’s English was out virgin hunting?

According to Sjoberg, textbook grooming commenced. A shopping trip to posh Worth Avenue, a visit to the mansion. Then a week later, a call — would Johanna like to earn $100 dollars to perform some foot rubs at the mansion? She went and soon found herself asked to strip, and lying on the massage table herself, to learn the best massage moves. In a few months, she said in the deposition, she was being called in to participate in threesomes with Jeffrey and Ghislaine or other girls in Epstein’s coterie.

Maxwell, knowing Sjoberg was studying photography, eventually bought her a camera. But according to Sjoberg, there were strings attached. “You cannot receive it yet because you didn’t finish your job and I had to finish it for you,” Sjoberg recalled her saying. “She was implying that I did not get Jeffrey off and she had to do it.”

Eventually, she got the camera and was soon flying to Jeffrey’s private island with other teen girls, to meet other men.

“She called us her children,” Sjoberg recalled. “At one point when we were in the islands we were all watching a movie and she called us her children.”

“Did she ever refer to herself as a mother?” the lawyer asked.

“Yes, like a mother hen.”

In the latest documents, as she always has, Maxwell denies everything. (Maxwell’s legal team did not respond to requests for comment.)

The lurid details — underage or barely of-age girls forced into threesomes, assaulted with sex toys, and according to one deposition account, getting to know Epstein’s “egg-shaped” genitalia — transfixed social media for hours. Nasty Twitter plebes nicknamed the British socialite “Ghiz” making a public spectacle of a woman who, years after Epstein’s Palm Beach imprisonment, was still maintaining a seemly front. “I have been absolutely appalled by this story and appalled by the entire characterization of it and I apologize sincerely for my banging at the table,” she says in one of the depositions, to lawyers who have already heard some two-dozen girls tell the same appalling story.

Of course, it was all supposed to remain — as the word stamped on every page of her own deposition reminds us — “Confidential.”

How does a proper upperclass Englishwoman end up accused again and again of cruising — with a chauffeur behind the wheel — South Florida strip-mall massage parlors, “spas,” and tiny Christian college campuses hunting for teen girls with bad families or just out of rehab or in foster care?

Alliances between heiresses and serially sexually abusive men are not unheard of. Learjet heiress Pat Lear was a disciple of the guru known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who ran a sex cult in Oregon. The Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman poured millions into the NXVIM cult and then legal defense of sex slaver Keith Raniere. Patty Hearst took up arms with her Symbionese Liberation Army rapist.

It’s not clear what drew these other heiresses to the abusers, but to begin to understand Ghislaine Maxwell, the place to start might be her dad.

Robert Maxwell’s exploits in the underworld brought him in contact with some of the late Twentieth Century’s most notorious global mobsters, and paid for the 53-room mansion on a 14-acre park overlooking Cambridge, where Ghislaine grew up. Born Jan Hoch to a peasant Czech family in in 1923, he grew up to be a member of British Parliament and owner of a major media company. But that was only the visible side of his. In their book Robert Maxwell: Superspy, British investigative journalists Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon claim that Maxwell was a conduit between the KGB, the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and the emerging Russian kleptocrat oligarchy in the 1980s, creating some 400 companies that were used to launder the newly capitalist Slavs’ dirty money.

The authors alleged Maxwell was in business with Russian mob kingpin Semyon Mogilevich, a 300 pound financial mastermind who has been compared to the Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs for the scale of his criminal empire. Mogilevich is on the FBI’s ten most wanted list for a variety of sophisticated financial schemes, besides the standard mob businesses of trafficking in humans and drugs.

Maxwell was a prodigious patriarch — nine children by one wife — and baby Ghislaine was supposedly his favorite. He named his yacht the Lady Ghislaine, and was found dead near it, in 1991, under mysterious circumstances, after a series of criminal financial deals went bad. The cause of death remains murky, and Ghislaine Maxwell has said she doesn’t believe he killed himself.

Ghislaine Maxwell moved to New York in 1991, and was soon a society fixture, hanging with the likes of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump. Her boyfriend was Jeffrey Epstein. According to the defamation lawsuit, by the mid-1990s, she was hunting for troubled girls and grooming them for him. The girls told lawyers they thought Maxwell was Epstein’s part-time girlfriend, who wanted them around because she couldn’t keep up with his insatiable sexual requirements. She was soon running his houses in New York, Palm Beach, and the Virgin Islands.

As she cruised Florida strip malls, she was driven by Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion manager, Juan Alessi. According to his deposition, he disliked her, and thought she was “rotten spoiled.” He also thought she and Epstein were “like partners in business,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of business but she was the one who organized I would say employment. So whatever I need, if I have some kind of problem, I contact her.”

Federal prosecutors have admitted in bail filings they don’t know what Epstein actually did for money. But one clue lies in another lawsuit between Epstein and some of the accusers in Florida. An Epstein accountant testified that Epstein got his “money start” from Maxwell’s father.

What is known is that with his stash of mystery money he built a wired-up sybaritic paradise for horny powerful men, stocked with sexually groomed young girls and women. He then became a keeper of their secrets, as he bragged to author James B. Stewart last year. “The overriding impression I took away from our roughly 90-minute conversation was that Mr. Epstein knew an astonishing number of rich, famous and powerful people, and had photos to prove it,” Stewart wrote in the New York Times. “He also claimed to know a great deal about these people, some of it potentially damaging or embarrassing, including details about their supposed sexual proclivities and recreational drug use.”

A lot of people knew what Epstein was into. Most have managed to keep hunkered down behind the hedge of lawyers. The legal documents dumped last week are just pieces of depositions, with many pages ending mid-sentence, presumably because those named in the missing pages are in Hail Mary legal mode, throwing last minute legal maneuvers at the judge to block their release.

Dead men don’t talk. Live women, in the Epstein case, have been talking — but until recently they might as well have been dead too for all the legal system cared.

One Epstein associate could answer the questions that now, he never can. Her lawyers are both “out of the country’ and were unavailable for comment, according to the offices. But maybe soon, Ghislaine Maxwell will be forced out of the shadows to join her “children” in explaining who her late friend Jeffrey Epstein was and what he was doing.


Correction: This story previously stated that Robert Maxwell died in 1990. He died in 1991. 

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