Prosecutors say Ghislaine Maxwell ran ‘a pyramid scheme of abuse’ with Jeffrey Epstein in opening statements at her child sex-trafficking trial

Ghislaine maxwell with lawyers court llustration
Defense lawyer Bobbi Sternheim points toward Ghislaine Maxwell standing beside Jeffrey Pagliuca during a pre-trial hearing on sex trafficking charges, in a courtroom sketch in New York City, on November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
  • Prosecutors slammed Ghislaine Maxwell in their opening statement at her child sex-trafficking trial.
  • They accused Maxwell of sex-trafficking young girls with Jeffrey Epstein and sexually abusing them.
  • The trial in New York City is expected to last up to six weeks. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty.

NEW YORK — Prosecutors on Monday alleged how Ghislaine Maxwell groomed and sexually abused teenage girls in opening statements for the British socialite’s child sex-trafficking trial, accusing her of running “a pyramid scheme of abuse” with Jeffrey Epstein.

“For a decade, the defendant played an essential role in this scheme. She knew exactly what she was doing. She was dangerous. She was setting them up with a predator,” Assistant US Attorney Lara Elizabeth Pomerantz said on Monday afternoon.

Pomerantz said Maxwell and Epstein created a system where they for young girls to recruit other young girls for sex, creating a “steady stream of abuse.”

The opening statements mark the beginning of the trial, which is expected to last up to six weeks in a federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against her, and has denied all wrongdoing.

What Maxwell is accused of

In an indictment, federal prosecutors accused Maxwell of sex-trafficking young girls with Jeffrey Epstein, sexually abusing them herself, and lying about her actions in a deposition. FBI agents arrested Maxwell in her home in New Hampshire in July 2020, and she’s been awaiting trial in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center ever since.

Prosecutors identified four accusers who are expected to testify in the trial. Numerous other women have accused Maxwell of sexual misconduct in civil litigation, as well.

At the heart of the trial is Maxwell’s relationship with Epstein, the financier and convicted sex offender who killed himself in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on similar charges. Audrey Strauss, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time of Maxwell’s arrest, said Maxwell and Epstein ran a child sex-trafficking operation together.

“Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, and then delivered them into the trap that she and Jeffrey Epstein had set,” Strauss said in a statement at the time. “She pretended to be a woman they could trust. All the while, she was setting them up to be abused sexually by Epstein and, in some cases, Maxwell herself.”

A Florida law enforcement investigation in 2006 identified 34 Epstein victims. But as part of a non-prosecution agreement, he pleaded guilty to state-level prostitution charges that gave him an 18-month sentence in Palm Beach County jail. Epstein spent much of that time on “work release” in an office rather than in a jail cell.

A victims’ compensation program established by Epstein’s estate after his death ultimately paid 150 victims $US125 ($AU175) million.