July 2 (UPI) -- Ghislaine Maxwell, a close friend and associate of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday and charged by U.S. officials with aiding him in the sexual abuse of minor girls.
The British socialite was arrested Thursday morning in New Hampshire and charged with enticing and transporting minors to engage in illegal sexual acts with Epstein, several related counts, and with perjury, said Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
"Today we announced charges against Ghislaine Maxwell, for helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually exploit and abuse multiple minor girls from the period of 1994 to 1997," Strauss said at a news conference in New York announcing the charges.
The case against the 58-year-old Maxwell, she said, is "the prequel" to the charges brought against Epstein in July 2019, which included counts of sexual abuse allegedly committed in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005.
Epstein killed himself in his New York jail cell in August 2019 after pleading not guilty. Eleven years earlier, he had been convicted on charges of using an underage girl as a prostitute in Florida and served a 13-month sentence.
Prosecutors alleged Maxwell used her position as a trusted adult to locate and "groom" underage girls for Epstein, gaining their trust by taking them to movies and shopping trips and urging them to accept gifts from the powerful financier.
"As Maxwell and Epstein intended, this grooming process left the minor victims susceptible to sexual abuse," Strauss said.
Maxwell herself participated in some instances of abuse, prosecutors alleged.
Maxwell is the daughter of the late British media magnate Robert Maxwell and was frequently seen at Epstein's side in a high-profile social life among leading figures from the worlds of politics and the arts.