eptstein maxwell
© PATRICK MCMULLAN/GETTY IMAGES
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell (right) with Carol Mack at an event in New York City, 1995.
Is it possible prosecutors have lost track of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's alleged co-conspirator in his pedophile ring? For the past few weeks, rumors have circulated that she's 400 pounds and living in Florida, or that she's living the high life in London or the Continent, but according to the Washington Post, authorities are having a hard time locating her. Those who know her say that it's possible she is as much of a Houdini as Epstein. Both of them liked having secrets, and the way those secrets kept people off balance. "Jeffrey always wanted to give the impression that he was an international man of mystery — 'I control everyone and everything, I collect people, I own people, I can damage people,'" says an ex-girlfriend.

As part of Epstein's original plea deal, negotiated with Alexander Acosta, the others implicated were also given immunity from prosecution, which is partly why victims like Virginia Roberts Giuffre pursued her and others in civil courts. But Epstein's death has not stopped the current investigation. "We remain committed to standing for you," Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote in a statement after Epstein's death, "and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing." There were rumors on Monday afternoon that indictments of five people were imminent.

The nature of the relationship between Epstein and Maxwell, the favorite daughter of embezzling press baron Robert Maxwell, who died when he fell or was pushed from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, is not well known. Multiple victims claim she was both part of the sex trafficking ring, often bringing girls to Epstein, and a sexual participant. But Epstein told of-age women he courted that Maxwell was a former girlfriend fallen on hard times, and that he had taken it upon himself to maintain her position in society. "Ghislaine floated in and out of the house with the keys, and even though Jeffrey told me they didn't have a sexual relationship, she'd drop under her breath that she was sleeping in his bed from time to time," says an ex-girlfriend. Another woman in Maxwell's orbit says she used to joke about keeping herself rail thin because Epstein liked thin girls. Maxwell, whose father was Jewish, liked to shock. "She said, 'I do it the way Nazis did it with the Jews, the Auschwitz diet. I just don't eat.'"

The sinister depravity of Epstein's sexual world, and Maxwell's role in enabling it, was mostly kept hidden. The two were fixtures on a certain rarefied Manhattan circuit. Epstein was as a practical joker who liked messing with people he regarded as lower on the food chain. A prominent 1990s Sports Illustrated model who dated Epstein describes meeting Donald Trump at one of Trump's parties in the penthouse of the Plaza Hotel back then, and Trump goading Epstein to get her number. "Jeffrey said he wouldn't give it to him and he had to get it from me," she says. She finally gave it to him on another occasion, but he lost the number. "Trump called Jeffrey trying to get it again, saying 'She gave it to me! You know she gave it to me! You can give it to me now!' but Jeffrey wouldn't do it." She laughs. "Donald was such a joke to all of the models back then — we all knew he was bankrupt and had no game. I remember Jeffrey once saying he was going to be late to pick me up because he had to drop off food for Donald — he was at home crying under the covers."

Maxwell seemed to adore Epstein, who was a grinning grifter with the gift of gab, and always had a story to tell, even about his home. "He was obsessed with jewelry boxes and very detailed, ornate designs — he told me the Pope actually gave him artisans who teamed up with this one jewelry-box maker from Paris to make his dining room look like a giant version of the inside of a Parisian jewelry box," says an ex-girlfriend. Epstein also said that his friend Lynn Forester, now married to billionaire Evelyn de Rothschild, needed his financial help during her 1990s divorce from politician Andrew Stein, and that he had graciously floated her. ("100% false," says a spokesperson for Forester.) He claimed that the producers of The Apprentice had first approached him to make a show about a reclusive billionaire living an extravagant life, but he said no, and then introduced them to Trump. (A spokesperson for Mark Burnett denies this).

On the weekends in the 1990s, Maxwell would have her Rollerblades FedExed to Epstein's island in the Caribbean, and said she got her helicopter's license so she could transport anyone she liked without pilots knowing who they were. Maxwell also said the island had been completely wired for video; the friend thought that she and Epstein were videotaping everyone on the island as an insurance policy, as blackmail. A source close to Maxwell says she spoke glibly and confidently about getting girls to sexually service Epstein, saying this was simply what he wanted, and describing the way she'd drive around to spas and trailer parks in Florida to recruit them. She would claim she had a phone job for them, "and you'll make lots of money, meet everyone, and I'll change your life." The source continues, "Ghislaine was in love with Jeffrey the way she was in love with her father. She always thought if she just did one more thing for him, to please him, he would marry her."

Maxwell had one other thing to tell this woman: "When I asked what she thought of the underage girls, she looked at me and said, 'they're nothing, these girls. They are trash.'"