The whereabouts of Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime business associate of Jeffrey Epstein, has been largely a mystery since the registered sex offender was arrested last summer on sex trafficking charges.
But Ms. Maxwell has surfaced with a lawsuit against Mr. Epstein’s estate, saying the financier, who died last year, had promised to pay her legal fees for any claims from the dozens of women who say she helped him recruit them to give him massages when they were teenagers.
Ms. Maxwell’s brought her suit in Superior Court in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Mr. Epstein’s estate is being probated. The suit was filed on Friday, but not docketed until late Tuesday.
The lawsuit was a rare public movement by Ms. Maxwell, who has kept a low profile since Mr. Epstein’s death last August in federal custody. She remains a central figure in the investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan who are looking into associates of Mr. Epstein. Investigators are trying to determine who may have assisted him in recruiting young girls and women to be sexually abused and who may have moved money to further his efforts.
Ms. Maxwell, whose father was the late British media mogul Robert Maxwell, has hired a team of lawyers from New York, Colorado and California to monitor the ongoing criminal investigation and defend her in lawsuits filed by Mr. Epstein’s accusers.
In her complaint, Ms. Maxwell, 58, alludes to the once-intimate relationship she had with Mr. Epstein, describing herself as a longtime employee who formed “a legal and special relationship” with him. But the complaint said Ms. Maxwell “had no involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged misconduct.”
The suit says she “has incurred significant legal fees, personal security costs and other expenses” because of her work for a number of Mr. Epstein’s businesses from 1999 to 2006. Among those tasks, the lawsuit said, was managing Mr. Epstein’s homes in the Virgin Islands, New York, Paris, Florida and New Mexico. The suit says she also worked for his C.O.U.Q. Foundation.
The lawsuit says that before Mr. Epstein died, he said he would pay her legal fees in connection with other lawsuits that listed her as a defendant. According to the complaint, Ms. Maxwell sent the estate a letter in November demanding indemnification for all those costs, citing promises Mr. Epstein had made in writing and verbally about supporting her financially. Those commitments, the suit said, have not been honored.
The lawsuit was filed by lawyers from the firm of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, which has an office in the Virgin Islands. Messages left at the office on Wednesday morning were not immediately returned.
An attorney for Mr. Epstein’s estate did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein largely parted ways after he pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to a charge of soliciting prostitution from an underage girl. That conviction required him to register as a sex offender.
Mr. Epstein’s estate, valued at $600 million before the big stock market sell-off prompted by concern over the coronavirus, is the subject of litigation across multiple fronts. Nearly three dozen women have brought claims against the estate, saying they were sexually abused by Mr. Epstein as teenagers at his residences in New York, the Virgin Islands and New Mexico.
Many of the women have filed claims and related lawsuits anonymously. In some of those lawsuits, Ms. Maxwell has been named as either a co-defendant or someone who assisted Mr. Epstein in the abuse.
The executors of Mr. Epstein’s will are seeking to establish a restitution program — funded by the estate’s assets — to provide financial relief to victims without litigation. But the creation of the fund has been delayed by actions taken by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who has said she wants to make sure that victims have a voice in the process.
The estate has tapped Kenneth R. Feinberg, one of the nation’s best-known administrators of restitution funds, and Jordana Feldman, a lawyer who worked closely with Mr. Feinberg on the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, to oversee payments to Mr. Epstein’s victims.
Denise N. George, the attorney general for the Virgin Islands, said in a recent interview that she does not object to a restitution fund being created, but she wants the victims to be able choose a fund administrator along with the administrators chosen by the estate.
“We have always had the position the victims have to be properly compensated,” Ms. George said. “But there has always been the concern that the victims didn’t have part in picking the administrator.”
Steve Eder contributed reporting.