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- American financier
Ghislaine Maxwell was a boss who made almost impossible demands.
She ordered employees at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion to keep their eyes lowered, to not speak unless they were spoken to — and to clean up and put away their sex toys, an ex-houseman testified Thursday.
No detail was too small — from ensuring that every tissue box was full to checking for holes in Epstein’s fence so that Maxwell’s Yorkie, “Max,” wouldn’t escape.
Maxwell — Epstein’s former girlfriend — was Epstein’s “number 2” and managed Epstein’s households, doing most of the hiring and firing of the staff for his homes in Palm Beach, New Mexico, New York and on his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To help the employees remember all their daily chores, Maxwell compiled a 58-page instruction booklet that included checklists of tasks that the employees had to do every day for every room in the house.
“It was very degrading to me,” said the former Palm Beach houseman, Juan Alessi, on day four of Maxwell’s federal sex-trafficking trial in New York.
“It was amazing she did that to her employees,” he said. “It was an incredible amount of work... .I told her I would not do it. I could not do the checklist.”
Alessi, who worked for Epstein and Maxwell from 1990 to 2002, said that both Maxwell and Epstein instructed them to keep their mouths shut about what went on at the mansion. Employees were ordered to not even look at Epstein.
“Remember you hear nothing, see nothing and say nothing except to answer a question to you,’’ one of their instructions read.
Alessi described a dysfunctional household where women came and went at all hours of the day and night and he had to change the towels and sheets at least three times a day.
He estimated that he saw “hundreds” of women go through Epstein’s mansion in the 12 years he was employed by the financier.
The women would lounge topless at the pool and sometimes give Epstein massages, the houseman said.
While most of the women appeared to be well over 20, he recalled two who were much younger.
One of them was “Jane,” which is the pseudonym that prosecutors are using to identify one of the victims accusing Maxwell of helping Epstein molest her.
“She was a strikingly beautiful girl,” Alessi recalled, telling the jury that Jane initially visited the mansion with her mother, then began coming alone. Alessi would pick her up at her school or from home and bring her to the mansion many times.
He recalled how he transported Jane, with Epstein, Maxwell and Maxwell’s longtime assistant, Emmy Tayler, to the airport, where they took trips on Epstein’s private jet.
Another girl whom Alessi recalled was at the house often was Virginia Roberts. He said she appeared to be about 14 or 15. Alessi remembered that he drove Maxwell to a number of spas one day, including a spa at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s resort, just a mile away from Epstein’s mansion. Maxwell — upon seeing the petite, blond-haired girl, now known as Roberts Giuffre — jumped out of the car to talk to her, Alessi said. Later that day, she came to the mansion, and from that time on, she became a frequent visitor, he testified.
Giuffre previously sued Maxwell in civil court alleging that Epstein and Maxwell trafficked her to a number of powerful men, including Prince Andrew and Epstein’s attorney, Alan Dershowitz. Both men have denied Giuffre’s allegations.
Maxwell settled the case in 2017, but the British socialite gave a deposition during the case that has since become public. In it, she told Giuffre’s lawyers under oath that there was no one who visited the mansion who was under the age of 20. She has denied that she was involved in any sexual activity with minors.
On Thursday, Alessi said he was often tasked with calling women to come to the mansion to give massages. Maxwell and Epstein both had contact books with the names of “hundreds” of people, including young women who gave them massages, he said.
“I would call whoever they told me to call,” he told the jury.
The regulars would be let in through a side kitchen door and then taken up to Epstein’s master bath, where a table was usually set up for the massage. The large bath was just off Epstein’s bedroom and had a couch and a large shower, Alessi said.
While the houseman was never present for the massages, he said he cleaned up afterwards. There were often sex toys on the floor, and Alessi would put on gloves, then clean them and put them into a basket in Maxwell’s bathroom.
But Alessi never seemed to tie Maxwell to Jane’s abuse.
On Wednesday, Jane testified that she met Maxwell and Epstein at a summer arts camp in Michigan in 1994. After inviting her and her mother to visit the Palm Beach mansion, the couple began sexually exploiting her on a regular basis, she said. Jane told the jury that she was 14 when she was first directed by Maxwell how to please Epstein with a sexual massage. Later, they encouraged Jane to participate in group sex with them and a number of other women, including Tayler and another woman with the first name of Eva, Jane testified.
One of Maxwell’s attorneys, Laura Menninger, aggressively challenged Jane’s story, pointing out that she failed to mention Maxwell’s involvement in the abuse when she was first interviewed by the FBI and prosecutors in 2019. Jane admitted that she got some of the details wrong and left others out, in part because initially she didn’t trust prosecutors.
On Thursday, a clinical and forensic psychologist, Dr. Lisa Rocchio, told the jury how studies have shown that perpetrators who target children often “groom” their victims through a series of practices that manipulate them into believing what is happening to them is natural.
They pick victims who are vulnerable, then they gradually gain their trust by making them promises that they will help them in some way, and often give them gifts or money to get them to depend on them.
It’s common for child abuse victims to not reveal the abuse until much later in life, Rocchio testified.