Federal prosecutors finally got a jury to declare that the late Jeffrey Epstein, a Tier 3 registered sex offender, ran an international sex trafficking operation with his enabling gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell.
And now a big question lingers in the world of sex trafficking accountability: Who's next?
“Satisfaction with Maxwell’s conviction is tempered by the knowledge that other co-conspirators have yet to be held responsible for their involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s extraordinary criminal enterprise,” former prosecutor Jack Scarola said Wednesday after the Maxwell verdict.
Epstein died in jail in August 2019 awaiting his trial on sex trafficking charges. And Maxwell, 60, may very well spend the rest of her life there, after being convicted Wednesday on five of six charges of sex trafficking minors who were abused as young as 14.
After his death, Epstein’s estate established a victims’ compensation fund, which doled out more than $120 million to approximately 150 victims, and closed in early 2020. The fund issued payments from low-six figures to more than $1 million. The fund received approximately 225 applicants.
Scarola, who has assisted several victims of sex trafficking in his private practice, represented one of the four Maxwell accusers at her trial, a woman who used her first name Carolyn when testifying.
“The conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell is a welcome confirmation of the veracity of the charges brought against her on behalf of the very brave young women whom she directly participated in abusing,” Scarola told Just the News.
The lawyer offered foreboding message to other "co-conspirators" in the sex-trafficking world.
“On behalf of the women I have been privileged to represent over the past decade, I thank the prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their unwavering dedication to achieving justice in this case, and I express my confidence in their continued dedication,” he said.
“Doors closed by Epstein’s death may be opened by the very strong motivation Maxwell now has to unlock every door to which she holds a key," he added.
The belated victory for Epstein and Maxwell survivors and anti-sex trafficking activists does not erase the larger challenge of how to battle a global scourge that has only worsened since Maxwell's arrest. Sex trafficking has thrived with an insecure border, COVID lockdowns and economic hardship.
Samaritan House in Virginia has reported a troubling spike in families trafficking their own children, while the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported nearly an 98% increase of sexually enticing children incidents from between January and December 2020.
The next big prosecution in the Epstein/Maxwell operation, experts say, may come from overseas in France, where a modeling agency CEO who often engaged with Epstein and Maxwell professionally and socially has been charged with raping minors.
Jean Luc Brunel was arrested at the airport in Paris in December 2020. His trial has not yet been scheduled.
Photographs show Brunel and Epstein had been friends for years. Maxwell, Brunel and Epstein spent time together on Epstein’s island in the Caribbean and at his New York residence. Flight records show that Brunel and his assistant flew on Epstein’s planes with Maxwell and Epstein.
Back in 1988, CBS’ 60 Minutes ran an expose on Brunel’s history with young models. It cost him his contract with the late Eileen Ford, who ran the Ford modeling agency.
Thysia Huisman, a young Dutch model, came forward in 2019 and alleged to French police she once met Epstein in Brunel’s Paris apartment in 1991. Days later, Brunel drugged and raped Huisman in the very same apartment, she alleged to police.
“Brunel was professional during the day, but once the sun set, Brunel changed,” Huisman said in an interview with CDM.press. “Every night there were parties with older men from around the world.”
Since the time Huisman reported her rape to the French authorities, 11 women have come forward in France about Brunel and Epstein. Although the statute of limitations prohibits some of their claims, it does not prohibit all of them.
In December 2020, one year before Maxwell was found guilty, Brunel was arrested as he was on his way to Africa to a country that has no extradition with France.
Now, like Maxwell, he sits in jail. Brunel has denied any wrongdoing, dating to a 2015 lawsuit against Epstein in which Brunel stated the “adverse publicity” surrounding the financier had damaged his reputation.
Huisman on Wednesday applauded the outcome in Maxwell’s trial. “This is a great day for all survivors of Epstein, Maxwell and all their other accomplices,” she tweeted. “Finally some justice!”
Christine Dolan is Chief Investigative Correspondent for CDM.press. She has investigated human trafficking in 140 countries for almost 22 years.