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Ghislaine Maxwell Is Charged In Connection With Epstein Abuse Case

NOEL KING, HOST:

A close associate of the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is under arrest today. Her name is Ghislaine Maxwell. And just a quick warning that some parts of this story are really disturbing because of the nature of the alleged crimes. Prosecutors say Maxwell helped Epstein sexually exploit underage girls. Epstein died in prison. And authorities ruled it a suicide. But the investigation into what he was doing has continued. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been following this story in the meantime. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: How did Maxwell and Epstein know each other?

LUCAS: Maxwell comes from a prominent family in the U.K. Her father was a media magnet there. And she and Epstein met in the 1990s. They dated for a period of time. But on a broader level, she became a close confidante of his. They had a professional relationship as well.

And there have long been allegations and lawsuits brought by Epstein's alleged victims that Maxwell, for years, helped Epstein recruit young girls to be sexually exploited. And even after Epstein's suicide last year, prosecutors said that the investigation, as you noted, continued into his associates and possible co-conspirators. And Maxwell was seen then as a likely person of interest for investigators.

KING: She's facing federal charges now. What are the charges?

LUCAS: She faces six counts in all, including conspiracy to entice minors to travel, to engage in sexual acts and conspiracy to transport minors to engage in criminal sexual activity. She also faces perjury charges for allegedly lying about her role in Epstein's activities when she was asked about it under oath during a deposition a couple of years ago.

KING: What are prosecutors saying about what they allege she did?

LUCAS: Well, the events detailed in the indictment took place between 1994 and 1997. And they relate to three underage girls who were allegedly abused by Epstein. Here is how the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Audrey Strauss, summed up Maxwell's role.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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.

LUCAS: Prosecutors allege that Epstein and Maxwell had a sort of systematic method for luring these young girls in. They would pretend to befriend them by taking them shopping, by taking them to the movies, by asking about their family or their school life. Maxwell would encourage the girls to let Epstein pay for their travel and their education. And prosecutors say that this was all part of a scheme designed to make these young girls feel indebted to Epstein.

And once Epstein and Maxwell had developed a rapport with these underage girls, prosecutors say that Maxwell would try to normalize sexual abuse in a couple of ways - by undressing in front of the victim or being present when Epstein was sexually abusing the victim. And in at least one instance, as we heard Strauss say, prosecutors alleged that Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.

KING: OK. So she's arrested now. She's been charged. Does the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein stop here?

LUCAS: This is not the end of the road. The top prosecutor in Manhattan, Audrey Strauss, who I mentioned earlier, said yesterday that this investigation is still ongoing. Of course, this case has generated a ton of public interest, in part because Epstein had ties to a lot of prominent people - that includes Britain's Prince Andrew. And there are questions about what Prince Andrew, for example, and others, other prominent people, knew about Epstein's activities. As for Maxwell, she has serious charges here, this sort of charges that could induce her to cooperate with prosecutors and share what she knows about other associates of Epstein's.

KING: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thanks, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hey, thanks for reading.
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