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Woman Who Says Epstein Groomed Her for Sex at 14 Sues His Estate



A New York woman who said Jeffrey Epstein groomed her for sex starting when she was 14 and then raped her a year later sued his estate on Wednesday, one of many possible lawsuits that his estate may face after his death by an apparent suicide.

While Mr. Epstein’s death ended a federal criminal prosecution on child sex trafficking charges, his estate may still have to defend against civil suits. He was believed to have been worth at least $500 million.

Other women who have said they were victimized by Mr. Epstein said they planned to file lawsuits, and a new state law in New York that expands the amount of time that some sexual abuse victims can sue could open the door to more claims.

CreditNew York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, via Reuters

Mr. Epstein, 66, died Saturday after he hanged himself in a Manhattan federal jail where he had been held since his arrest in early July, authorities said.

In her lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jennifer Araoz said she was recruited by an unnamed woman outside her Manhattan high school in 2001 before meeting Mr. Epstein and giving him erotic massages once or twice a week in his Upper East Side townhouse.

In 2002, about a year after they met, Mr. Epstein pulled Ms. Araoz on top of him during a massage and raped her, according to the lawsuit. She did not visit his townhouse again, she said.

His lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Araoz also sued the women she said helped Mr. Epstein, including Ghislaine Maxwell, Mr. Epstein’s longtime confidante and the daughter of Robert Maxwell, a British publishing magnate. They also include three unnamed household staffers, including Mr. Epstein’s secretary, his maid and a woman she called “the recruiter.”

Dan Kaiser, Ms. Araoz’s lawyer, said his client did not interact with Ms. Maxwell at the townhouse but included Ms. Maxwell in the suit because she was “one of the center spokes of this conspiracy.”

“It wasn’t just Jeffrey Epstein,” Kaiser said. Maxwell “helped maintain the ring and is responsible as a co-conspirator for the injuries that Jennifer suffered. There was a whole circuit of enablers around him, adults who permitted this to go on.”

Ms. Maxwell’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment. She has emphatically denied past accusations that she participated in sex trafficking.

Ms. Araoz, who is now 32, first told her story to NBC News last month, after Mr. Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport on the federal charges. Her lawsuit could be one of many new claims that are filed against the Epstein estate in New York under the law passed this year.

The law, called the Child Victims Act, expands the amount of time that prosecutors can file sexual abuse charges and victims can sue for abuse that occurred when they were a minor.

Crucially, the law created a one-year “look-back window,” during which claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived. That window opened on Wednesday.

Ms. Araoz’s attorneys said they planned to target Mr. Epstein’s assets in this suit, which include his properties in New York, Florida and the United States Virgin Islands.

While it is possible that Mr. Epstein shielded his vast wealth in shell companies, Mr. Kaiser said, the real estate properties are “hard assets that are difficult to hide.”

In her lawsuit, Ms. Araoz said she was groomed by the unnamed “recruiter” — whom she described as a brunette — outside Talent Unlimited High School, where she was a freshman.

Ms. Araoz, who was raised in modest means by a single mother in Queens, said she confided in the woman about the recent death of her father from AIDS. She and the woman met for several weeks before meeting Mr. Epstein in his townhouse, located a few blocks from her school on the Upper East Side, the lawsuit said.

“Ms. Araoz was a prime target for grooming by a pedophile like Mr. Epstein,” the suit said.

Ms. Araoz returned to the townhouse alone, where Mr. Epstein gave her a tour of the palatial building, one of the largest private residences in New York.

The lawsuit contained remarkable details about the home: Many rooms had elaborate murals painted on the ceilings, and a trophy room was filled with exotic animals, including a stuffed giraffe.

In Mr. Epstein’s master bathroom, prosthetic breasts had been mounted on the wall so that he could “look at or play with while in the bathtub,” the lawsuit said.

Mr. Epstein led her to his “favorite room” in the house, a large massage room with a blue ceiling painted with clouds and angels on one of the upper floors.

Mr. Epstein then asked her to take off her top, began fondling her breasts and asked her to give him a massage. Soon, she was coerced into giving him massages once or twice a week, wearing only her underwear, the lawsuit said.

Mr. Epstein would masturbate and then flatter and reward Ms. Araoz with $300 in cash, saying he wanted to help her, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan.

In the fall of 2002, the lawsuit said, Mr. Epstein instructed her to take off her underwear and climb atop him to give him a massage. He then raped her, and told her “that she felt amazing, and that she did nothing wrong,” according to the lawsuit.

She did not go to police after the incident. In an opinion piece for The New York Times on Wednesday, she said that for years she did not tell anyone about abuses because she was intimidated by Mr. Epstein’s insistence that she stay silent.

She said she was wracked with shame, and eventually dropped out of high school.

On Wednesday, Ms. Araoz said Mr. Epstein and the people around him “robbed me of my youth, my identity, my innocence, my self-worth.”

Her lawyers said she had spoken to federal prosecutors who were preparing a case against Mr. Epstein.

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