FILE PHOTO: Ghislaine Maxwell speaks at a news conference at the United Nations in New York, U.S. June 25, 2013 in this screengrab taken from United Nations TV file footage. UNTV/Handout via REUTERS
(Reuters) – Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested on Thursday on U.S. charges of luring underage girls so that Epstein could sexually abuse them.
The FBI arrest of the British socialite is the latest twist in the mystery of Epstein, who went from a high school math teacher to high-flying lifestyle of private Caribbean islands and powerful connections that his victims say allowed him to abuse minors with impunity.
Maxwell, 58, was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, where she had been laying low since December, the FBI said.
Maxwell appeared briefly by video from jail at a hearing in New Hampshire federal court, where a judge ordered her to face the criminal charges in New York. She did not enter a plea, and bail was not determined.
She spoke briefly, answering “yes” when asked if she knew her rights. Her lawyer, Larry Vogelman, declined further comment on her behalf.
Prosecutors said she was a flight risk and asked that she be detained without bail. They said she faces up to 35 years in prison.
She is charged with four criminal counts related to procuring and transporting minors for illegal sex acts and two of perjury, according to the indictment by federal prosecutors in New York.
“Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls who were as young as 14 years old,” said acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. “Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse. In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.”
Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking minors between 2002 and 2005 when he was found hanged in an apparent suicide while in a New York City jail in August. He was 66.
Previously, he pleaded guilty in Florida to state charges of solicitation of prostitution from a minor in a 2008 deal with prosecutors that was widely criticized as too lenient.