Victims allege Ghislaine Maxwell is purposefully evading justice system originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
Lawyers for several women suing Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime friend Ghislaine Maxwell contend that the 58-year-old British socialite has effectively vanished, frustrating their efforts to hold her accountable for her alleged role in the deceased financier’s sex-trafficking operation.
Since Epstein's arrest last July and his death in prison a month later, Maxwell's whereabouts have been the subject of intense scrutiny. Various press reports have placed her in Massachusetts, California, France and Israel, yet none of those sightings has been confirmed. Maxwell has sold her former residences in New York and London and shuttered her non-profit ocean conservation organization.
Maxwell, represented by attorneys from a Colorado law firm, is currently contesting the disclosure of previously sealed documents in a now-settled defamation lawsuit brought against her in federal court in New York by Virginia Giuffre, who alleges that Epstein and Maxwell sexually abused her as a teenager and directed her to have sex with powerful men, including Britain's Prince Andrew.
But according to court records, those lawyers have declined to accept service of the new lawsuits on Maxwell's behalf, saying that Maxwell has not authorized them to do so.
Maxwell's attorneys have not responded to requests for comment from ABC News. Maxwell has previously denied allegations that she facilitated or participated in Epstein's alleged crimes. Prince Andrew has also denied allegations that he had sex with Giuffre, as she contends, on three occasions in 2001.
The relationship between Maxwell and Epstein, who died in prison last year after being indicted on sex trafficking charges, is the subject of the latest episode of ABC News’ “Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein,” an eight-part podcast focusing on Epstein and the women who survived his crimes. Click here to subscribe to the podcast.
The Oxford-educated daughter of Robert Maxwell, the larger than life publishing baron whose rags-to-riches story captivated England, she lived an extravagant life among the British elite until her father's business empire collapsed in the wake of his death. She fled to New York looking for a fresh start and was soon seen in the company of the mysterious multimillionaire Epstein.
In recent months, three women have named Maxwell as a co-defendant in lawsuits against Epstein's estate, which is valued at more than $500 million dollars, according to court filings.
One of them, Jennifer Araoz, 32, who sued Maxwell and Epstein's estate in August, claims that she was recruited in New York as a 14-year-old into Epstein's "scheme of exploitation and abuse" and is seeking to hold Maxwell responsible for her alleged role as the "second in command of Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking enterprise.”
But her legal team’s efforts to track down Maxwell have come up empty.
“We have made repeated efforts to locate Ms. Maxwell, including engaging surveillance services," Bill Kaiser, an attorney for Araoz, told ABC News. "We have thus far been unable to find her for the purposes of serving her with the complaint.”
And she’s not alone. This week, attorneys for Annie Farmer, 40 -- who sued Maxwell and Epstein's estate in November, alleging that Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her from Arizona to Epstein's New Mexico ranch in 1996, where she claims Maxwell sexually assaulted her -- filed a petition with a federal judge in Manhattan outlining their unsuccessful attempts to find Maxwell.
Their efforts to serve her with notice of the lawsuit, they wrote, have included "extensive public records searches" that located various addresses for Maxwell in the United States, "yet no one has been able to locate Maxwell any of those addresses." An email attaching the summons to the only publicly known email address for Maxwell, they informed the court, did not receive a response.
"Maxwell should not be permitted to dodge Ms. Farmer’s allegations of serious wrongdoing against her," wrote Farmer's attorney, Joshua Schiller of Boies, Schiller, Flexner, LLP.
Farmer's attorneys are now asking the judge overseeing her case to rule that they've done all they can reasonably to try to locate Maxwell and inform her of the lawsuit.
"[Maxwell] has been using this Court as a sword and a shield for many years, and she, Jeffrey Epstein, and their other co-conspirators have attempted to thwart their victims from obtaining justice for decades,” Schiller wrote. “Maxwell must face the allegations against her, and the Court should deem the service methods attempted to be sufficient.”
A third woman, identified in court records as Jane Doe, sued Maxwell and Epstein's estate earlier this month, alleging that they recruited her as a 13-year-old music student in 1994. She contends that she was sexually abused by Epstein on multiple occasions over the next four years, and that Maxwell "regularly facilitated Epstein's abuse" and "was frequently present when it occurred."
Attorneys for the anonymous plaintiff declined to comment, but there is no indication so far in the court record that they have located Maxwell.
Sources tell ABC News that Maxwell is under criminal investigation by federal authorities in New York, who have vowed to hold responsible any alleged co-conspirators in Epstein's sex trafficking conspiracy.
Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, told reporters at a new conference outside Epstein's New York townhouse, that authorities had received "zero cooperation" from Prince Andrew despite his earlier public statements that he would be willing to talk to authorities in the United States.
Buckingham Palace has repeatedly declined to comment on the matter.
Prince Andrew told the BBC in an interview in November that he met Epstein through his friendship with Maxwell, whom he said he had known since her college years. He had last seen Maxwell in England, he said, in the spring of 2019, about a month before Epstein's arrest.