The FBI arrested on Thursday Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of the late disgraced financier and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell, 58, was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, where she had been laying low since December, the FBI said.
She was arrested 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 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.
The indictment accuses Maxwell of luring the girls beginning in 1994 through 1997 by asking them about their lives, schools and families and taking them shopping or to movies.
Strauss called Maxwell’s alleged acts “the prequel” to Epstein’s abuse.
After Maxwell won the girls’ trust, the indictment alleges, she would try to “normalize sexual abuse” by discussing sexual topics or by undressing in front of them or being present when they were undressed.
Epstein’s alleged abuse included touching their genitals, placing sex toys on their genitals and having the girls touch Epstein while he masturbated.
Strauss said the abuse took place at Epstein’s homes in New York, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Palm Beach, Florida, as well as Maxwell’s residence in London.