With the possibility of prosecuting Jeffrey Epstein taken off the table following his death, some of the convicted sex offender's alleged victims are turning their attention to Epstein's rumored enabler: Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite named not only as Epstein's procurer, but as his literal partner in a litany of sex crimes. On Wednesday, Jennifer Araoz—who recently accused Epstein of raping her when she was 15 years old—filed a lawsuit against Maxwell, describing her as the disgraced financier's right-hand lieutenant, and an enabler who made the whole scheme possible.
Araoz, now 32, filed a pre-commencement petition asking that Epstein be deposed so she could figure out who recruited her into his fold. Araoz says that, when she was 14 years old, a woman approached her outside her Manhattan high school and, over the course of weeks, proceeded to groom her for service to Epstein. Shortly after this woman made the introduction, Araoz began giving the millionaire semi-nude massages at his Upper East Side townhouse—massages she says eventually escalated to rape. According to Araoz's latest suit, which also implicates Epstein's estate, none of this would have been possible without Maxwell and three other, unnamed staffers. Together with their associates, Epstein and Maxwell "conspired ... to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape of Plaintiff," the suit alleges.
By now, the allegations against Maxwell feel familiar, almost as familiar as those against Epstein: On Friday, the day before the alleged sex trafficker was found dead in his cell, thousands of pages of damning court documents became public, offering a closer look at Maxwell's purported role in Epstein's crimes. The filings came from a defamation lawsuit Virginia Roberts Giuffre brought against Maxwell in 2015, and which the pair subsequently settled in 2017. According to Giuffre, Maxwell functioned as a madam, procuring and preparing a sprawling network of teenage girls for her best friend and former boyfriend. Giuffre says Maxwell approached her when she was a 16-year-old working a Mar-a-Lago, and that Maxwell would go on to force her into sex with a slew of powerful men—including, according to Giuffre, Britain's Prince Andrew, an allegation Buckingham Palace has firmly denied.
The documents also contend that, in addition to keeping Giuffre and other minors as "sex slaves," Maxwell participated in the alleged abuse herself. Maxwell has previously characterized Giuffre's accounts as lies, but currently, her whereabouts are unknown: Even federal authorities aren't sure where she's hiding, the Washington Post reports.
Araoz filed her lawsuit under New York's Child Victim Act, which gives adult survivors of sexual abuse a one-year grace period to pursue civil charges against the perpetrators, beginning today. The complaint also lists a "maid," a "recruiter," and a "secretary" among Epstein's alleged helpers, but accuses Maxwell in particular of having "participated with and assisted Epstein in maintaining and protecting Defendant Epstein's sex trafficking ring." Although Araoz says she never met the socialite, she argues that Maxwell's "implementation and maintenance of [Epstein's] criminal enterprise" meant she [Araoz] and other minors became his victims.
Meanwhile, scrutiny of the Metropolitan Correctional Center continues to intensify: The NY Times reports that the guards who should have been checking in on Epstein every 30 minutes, and therefore limiting the odds that he might duck justice by attempting suicide a second time, fell asleep during their shift. They appear to have let three hours go by before looking in on him, and then doctored the log to cover their tracks.
Those guards (one of whom, according to the Times, was not even experienced in guarding detainees) had reportedly been working overtime for five consecutive days, but still, this oversight is not the only one that seems to have occurred in advance of Epstein's death. MCC officials transferred Epstein's cellmate on Friday night, leaving him alone just over a week after he'd been taken off suicide watch.
Unsupervised, sources say Epstein used a bedsheet to hang himself from his bunk bed on Saturday morning. On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, furious over the string of procedural lapses, reassigned MCC warden Lamine N'Diaye to a Bureau of Prisons office in Philadelphia for the duration of federal inquiries. The two staffers who were assigned to Epstein's unit the night of his death have also been placed on administrative leave.
"We will get to the bottom of what happened, and there will be accountability," Barr promised on Monday. "Any co-conspirators should not rest easy."
Federal prosecutors have pledged to pursue the "conspiracy" portion of the charges against him, while Lisa Bloom—an attorney for some of Epstein's alleged victims—raised the possibility of civil suits against his estate. In an op-ed for the NY Times, Araoz explains how she hopes her lawsuit will challenge a "power structure [that] was stacked against" her.
"I'm angry he won't have to personally answer to me in the court of law. But my quest for justice is just getting started," she writes. "His money, influence and connections to important people made me want to hide and stay silent. Those same powerful forces let him hide and evade justice."
"That changes, starting now," she continues. "I want my story to hold Epstein to account and also his recruiters, the workers on his payroll who knew what he was doing and the prominent people around him who helped conceal and perpetuate his sex-trafficking scheme. Their hideous actions victimized me and so many young girls like me."