A new front in the Jeffrey Epstein case opened on Wednesday morning when Prosecutor Epstein, Jennifer Araoz, filed a lawsuit against his estate, his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed domestic workers.
Araoz claims she was repeatedly sexually molested by Epstein in his apartment building in New York when she was 14 and 15 years old, including rape in 2002. She first revealed her alleged abuse in an exclusive TODAY interview with Savannah Guthrie from NBC News on July 10, the same day she filed documents with the New York State Court, saying she was going to sue Epstein.
Araoz's complaint on Wednesday claims that Maxwell and other employees "conspired with each other to enable and otherwise facilitate sexual abuse and rape in the Flood."
The lawsuit is one of the first to be brought against Epstein's estate after his death on Saturday suicide. He changes the lawsuit she intended to bring against him to call his property the accused.
It is also one of the first lawsuits brought under the new New York Child Victim Act that will come into force on Wednesday. Groundbreaking law allows victims of child sexual abuse to bring civil cases against alleged perpetrators of violence for the next 12 months, regardless of when the abuse occurred. After a year, victims will have up to 55 years of age to file a civil claim.
The Araoz case was not cited in the July sex allegation against sexual trafficking. After he was charged and when she publicized her allegations, she was questioned by both the FBI and federal prosecutors from the southern New York suburbs as part of the investigation into the Epstein case. Araoz continues to cooperate because the detective story focuses on all potential Epstein co-conspirators, her lawyers told NBC News.
Many young women accused Maxwell, now the 57-year-old daughter of the late publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, for complicity in Epstein's alleged sexual trafficking. They say she either recruited them directly or provided logistical support, such as planning visits to Epstein's home.
Maxwell's alleged role became sharper last week in newly unsealed court records, which include testimonies by former masseurs, employees and associates of Epstein. They paint a portrait of Maxwell as the main helper of the accused sexual predator.
The documents are related to a defamation action in 2015, in which Epstein's alleged victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, brought an action against Maxwell. This lawsuit was settled out of court in 2017.
Maxwell was not charged with crime and repeatedly denied the charges against her. In the 2007 Epstein plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to bring any criminal charges against other potential co-conspirators identified during the investigation. Maxwell was not mentioned in the contract as a potential co-conspirator. Epstein pleaded guilty to two state crimes of prostitution, served 13 months in county jail – with daily dismissal – and was registered as a sex offender. The agreement was widely criticized by legal experts.
The Araoz case is a new legal responsibility for Maxwell and other household workers – secretary, maid, and "recruiter" who, Araoz says, was meeting outside high school a few blocks from Epstein's house in the fall of 2001.
In the lawsuit, Maxwell "participated and assisted Epstein in maintaining and protecting the defendant Epstein's sex trafficking ring" by providing a steady stream of young women by identifying and employing "recruiters", planning meetings with Epstein, as well as intimidating potential witnesses and ensuring the program remained secret.
Although Araoz says she has never met Maxwell in person, her suit has a direct relationship between Maxwell's alleged administrative support in Epstein's sex dealings and the abuses she experienced. "Based on information and beliefs," says the complaint, "Maxwell conspired with Epstein in implementing and maintaining his criminal enterprise, which in turn fell victim to Mrs. Araoz."
Maxwell's lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment or a question regarding Maxwell's whereabouts. However, they recently sent a letter to Araoz's lawyer, Dan Kaiser, in response to the intended trial.
"Powerful and rich Epstein," Kaiser told NBC News. "Well communicated people participated in the circle of trafficking in human beings and helped in hiding and consolidating it. They will now be held accountable. "
Epstein's lawyers did not respond to many requests for comment. During earlier discussions with Araoz's lawyers, Epstein's lawyers questioned her credibility.
The New York Children's Victims Act also applies to criminal cases – the statute of limitations has increased by five years, so victims will be up to 28 years old to prosecute crimes of sexual abuse and 25 years for offenses.
As she had previously informed NBC News, Araoz never contacted the authorities to tell her story, but she said she told at least four people – her mother, her old boyfriend and two close friends – about meeting with Epstein a few years after their occurrence. They arrived at NBC News, all four confirmed that she had told them years ago that she had been sexually assaulted by Epstein.