“Dangerous” Ghislaine Maxwell preyed upon vulnerable young girls and lured them to massage rooms to be molested by predator Jeffrey Epstein, her New York trial has heard.
The British socialite is alleged to have gained the trust of teenage girls as young as 14 and normalised sex for her partner Epstein to abuse them between 1994 and 2004.
The court in the Southern District of New York heard Maxwell imposed a “culture of silence … by design” at Epstein’s properties, where staff were told to “see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing”.
The court heard that while the “horrific abuse” was going on, the 59-year-old defendant lived a “life of luxury” – with the prosecution describing the alleged trafficking as a “means to support her lifestyle”.
Assistant United States Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors that Maxwell and Epstein’s youngest alleged victim, who was 14 when she was “recruited”, did not know that “this man and woman were predators”.
Opening the case against the defendant, Ms Pomerantz said: “This meeting was the beginning of that man and woman targeting (the victim) for sexual abuse that would last for years.”
Pointing to the defendant, Ms Pomerantz said: “Who was this woman? It was the defendant, Ghislaine Maxwell.
“The defendant directed the girls into a room where she knew (Epstein) would molest them.
“There were times when she was in the room when it happened – making it all feel normal and causal.
“She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused.
“The defendant was trafficking kids for sex. That is what this trial is all about.”
Addressing how Maxwell would encourage the girls into sexual activity, Ms Pomerantz said: “Massages were the primary way the defendant and Epstein lured the girls into sexual abuse.
“But what was happening was not massage. It was sexual abuse.
“Calling it massage was a ruse. A ruse for the girls to touch Epstein.
“The defendant helped Epstein find these girls. She helped him recruit girls for so-called massages.
“She manipulated the girls and groomed them for abuse.
“Even when she wasn’t in the room, she knew exactly what Epstein was going to do to those children when they went into those massage rooms.”
Ms Pomerantz told the court Maxwell and Epstein had an “intimate relationship” and when their relationship ended, they became “the best of friends”.
She continued: “During the 10 years the defendant and Epstein committed these crimes the defendant was the lady of the house.
“She ran Epstein’s various properties and she imposed rules not to talk directly with Epstein.
“When she took charge of these homes, the rules for staff were strict. Employees were to see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing.
“There was a culture of silence. That was by design. The defendant’s design. Because behind closed doors, the defendant and Epstein were committing heinous crimes.”
Ms Pomerantz told jurors the pair then developed a “pyramid scheme” in which they would invite teenagers to bring young friends to Epstein’s home in return for cash.
She continued: “The defendant and Epstein were partners in crime.
“They had a play book. Firstly, they got access to young girls, then they would gain their trust, they would learn about their lives and dreams, they learned about their families.
“The defendant and Epstein made the girls believe that their dreams could come true.
“They made them feel seen. They made them feel special.
“But that was a cover, a cover that meant the defendant and Epstein could operate in plain sight.
“They were wealthy and influential people who made the girls feel comfortable and safe. What came next was anything but safe.
“What came next was making them feel comfortable with sexual acts with Epstein.”
Ms Pomerantz added: “(The girls) would have paid anything not to have met the defendant and Jeffrey Epstein.
“They were dangerous predators who exploited and sexually abused young girls for a decade.”
The full indictment against Maxwell lists six charges, including conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Maxwell is also accused of transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sex trafficking conspiracy, and sex trafficking of a minor.
The defendant is further alleged to have lied under oath by hiding her participation in Epstein’s offences during a separate civil case.
Defending Maxwell, Bobbi Sternheim told the jury: “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things Jeffrey Epstein did.
“But she is not Jeffrey Epstein.
“She is not like Jeffrey Epstein and she is not like the powerful white men and media giants who abuse women.
“Epstein is not on trial but his name and conduct will be mentioned throughout this trial.”
Concluding her opening, Ms Pomerantz added: “The defendant played an essential role in this scheme.
“She knew exactly what she was doing. She was dangerous.”
Maxwell, who has been held in a US jail since her arrest in July last year, denies all charges.
The trial continues.