Maxwell Prosecutors Point to Money as Motive for Sex Trafficking
(Bloomberg) -- Jurors in Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial heard about a possible motive for her to procure young girls for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein: money.
David Rodgers, a former pilot for Epstein, testified on Wednesday that Maxwell “downsized” to a Manhattan studio apartment after the 1991 death of her financially distressed father, British publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell. In less than a decade though, she was living in her own five-story Upper East Side townhouse that was “maybe 7,000 square feet.”
Rodgers’s testimony followed that given earlier in the week by “Kate,” the second of three accusers who’ve said Maxwell lured them into sex with Epstein. Maxwell bragged that “she owned her house in New York City, and that Jeffrey had got it for her,” Kate said. A JPMorgan Chase banker testified Monday that Epstein transferred $30.7 million to Maxwell between 1999 and 2007.
“It goes to motive,” prosecutor Maurene Comey said after Maxwell’s lawyers objected to Rodgers’s testimony about her real estate moves. The judge allowed the pilot to proceed, and he said Maxwell’s move to a smaller place was prompted by her father’s death.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to sex-trafficking charges, and her lawyers have argued she’s being scapegoated for the crimes of Epstein, her former boyfriend and employer, who committed suicide in 2019 while awaiting his own trial.
The defense has also pointed to money as a motive -- for Maxwell’s accusers. Her lawyers have aggressively cross-examined them, suggesting they’re testifying for the government as a way of increasing the millions of dollars they’ve received from a fund set up for Epstein’s victims. The accusers have all denied any financial incentive behind their testimony.
He identified Maxwell in the courtroom, recalling that, when they first met, Maxwell was 29, “very energetic” and had a “great personality.”
She initially lived near Columbus Circle but moved to a studio after the death of Robert Maxwell, Rodgers said. She soon moved to a larger Upper East Side apartment though, and then into the townhouse in the late 1990s or 2000.
Once ranked among the world’s richest men, Maxwell’s father died in 1991 as his media empire, which once included the New York Daily News, was crumbling and he began to default on massive loans. After his death, hundreds of millions of pounds were found to have been diverted from his companies’ pension funds, and Maxwell’s older brother was forced to declare the largest personal bankruptcy in U.K. history.
It’s long been unclear if she received any significant inheritance, though she claimed to have $20 million in assets at the time of her 2020 arrest.
Maxwell sold a Manhattan townhouse for $15 million in 2016. She still has a house in London and paid $1 million cash for the New Hampshire country house where she hid from authorities for a year after Epstein’s arrest.
Another Epstein pilot, Lawrence Visoski, was the first witness called by the prosecution after opening statements on Nov. 29. He described Epstein’s jet-setting lifestyle flying between his five homes, including a Manhattan townhouse, Palm Beach mansion and private Caribbean island, occasionally with celebrities or politicians along for the ride. Visoski recalled that the romantic relationship between Maxwell and Epstein seemed to have cooled by the 2000s.
Rodgers echoed that testimony, tracing the pair’s relationship between 1991 and 2004. “Early on, they were romantically involved and, somewhere in between that time period, they weren’t romantically involved,” he said. But Rodgers said Maxwell nonetheless remained an important figure in Epstein’s world.
“She was No. 2,” he said.
Rodgers also offered more detail than Visoski on flights on which underage girls may have been present. Citing his own logs, Rodgers said Maxwell and Epstein flew on several occasions with “Jane,” who testified last week that Epstein began abusing her at age 14, and Virginia Giuffre, who has publicly accused Maxwell and Epstein of abusing her as a teen but is not testifying at the trial. The flights were to Epstein’s five residences as well as other destinations including Canada, Morocco and Spain.
The flight information supports one of the charges against Maxwell: that she helped transport underage girls across state lines for sexual acts.
Like Visoski though, Rodgers said he was unaware that any of his unaccompanied female passengers were minors. He said he thought both Jane and Giuffre were at least 18.
The case is U.S. v. Maxwell, 20-cr-00330, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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