Jeffrey Epstein’s former housekeeper drove two underage girls to the disgraced financier’s house under Ghislaine Maxwell’s orders, a New York court has heard.
Juan Alessi said he took one of Maxwell’s alleged victims, who gave evidence under the pseudonym “Jane”, and Virginia Giuffre, who has accused Prince Andrew, Duke of York of sexual assault – claims he categorically denies – to Epstein’s Palm Beach estate when both girls appeared to be around 14 or 15.
Ms Giuffre visited “very often”, said Mr Alessi, 72.
Mr Alessi said he drove Jane, who he described as “strikingly beautiful”, to an airport and watched her board a plane with Epstein, Maxwell and her dog, a Yorkshire terrier named Max.
He also testified that he saw Jane’s contact details in Epstein’s telephone directory, listed under “masseuses”.
Key points of the trial so far:
• Trial in New York, expected to last six weeks, enters day four
• Maxwell introduced herself to Mr Alessi as the “lady of the house” and told him not to make eye contact with Epstein
• Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, was visited by “many, many women” “hundreds of times”, witness testifies
• Maxwell targeted young girls before “serving them up for sexual abuse”, jury has heard
• Maxwell’s defence claims she has been “scapegoated” for Epstein’s crimes
• British socialite, 59, denies the allegations and could face life behind bars if she is convicted.
Analysis by Joe Pike, news correspondent in New York
The prosecution will be delighted with the fourth day of evidence in Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial.
Juan Alessi, the housekeeper of Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, has corroborated some of the claims made by Ms Maxwell’s first alleged victim, known by the pseudonym ‘Jane’.
Mr Alessi told the court he remembers seeing two girls at the residence: ‘Jane’, and Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Prince Andrew’s accuser.
Ms Roberts Giuffre is understood not to be one of the prosecution’s four alleged victims in this trial, but has been mentioned numerous times in proceedings.
Unlike other witnesses, Mr Alessi told the court Ghislaine Maxwell was at the heart of Jeffrey Epstein’s lavish and depraved life, describing her as the “lady of the house” who “told” and “instructed” him to carry out tasks.
A staff handbook for Mr Epstein’s employees explained they should “remember that you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing”.
Mr Alessi said: “I was supposed to be blind, deaf and dumb and to say nothing of their lives.”
Grooming expert Dr Lisa Rocchio was called by the prosecution, seemingly in an attempt to add credibility to the testimony of ‘Jane’.
Dr Rocchio said there were common strategies used in grooming, and it was “very common” for victims of child sexual abuse to wait a long time before telling others.
‘Jane’ reported her alleged abuse to police 20 years after she says she escaped Jeffrey Epstein.
Cross-examination of Juan Alessi is due to begin on Friday morning.
Taking to the witness box, Mr Alessi said “many, many, many females”, most appearing in their 20s, visited the house while he was working there.
He said he saw women at the house “hundreds of times”, adding that they were topless “75% of the time”.
The British socialite, 59, is accused of crimes including luring girls as young as 14 to be sexually abused by Epstein at his properties in New York City, Florida and New Mexico, as well as her own London residence, between 1994 and 1997.
Maxwell denies the charges against her, with her defence team suggesting she has been used as a “scapegoat” for Epstein’s crimes.
‘Lady of the house’
Maxwell introduced herself as the “lady of the house” when she met Mr Alessi and instructed him to run Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion like a five-star hotel, jurors were told.
She also ordered him not to look the disgraced financier in the eye and issued a 58-page document of “degrading” rules, Mr Alessi said on Thursday.
The ex-staff member worked for Epstein between 1990 and 2002 and claims that Ms Maxwell arrived on the scene in 1991 – changing the dynamic of the house from “cordial” to “just professional”.
“Ghislaine was Mr Epstein’s girlfriend but she introduced herself as the ‘lady of the house’, and said she managed many of his other properties,” Mr Alessi, 71, told the court.
“She gave many, many instructions to me.
“When she arrived the conversation between me and Mr Epstein became less and less.
“Ms Maxwell said to me that Mr Epstein doesn’t like to be looked in the eyes, she told me to just look at another part of the room and answer him.”
The housekeeper was also ordered “only to speak to Mr Epstein when he asked questions”, he told the court.
‘Many, many house rules’
Mr Alessi told how there was a “tremendous amount” of “many, many rules” covering “the way we should dress”, “cleanliness”, “shopping” and “the way we should address Mr Epstein”.
Mr Alessi said he would often work from 5am until 10pm to complete his “responsibilities” – prompting him to ask his wife to help.
“It was enough work for 10 people, not one and a half,” he recalled.
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“I wasn’t hired to do that kind of work.”
He said he refused to do all the tasks – but could not remember Maxwell’s response.
Epstein stayed at his Palm Beach property most weekends and bank holidays, when Maxwell would deliver “elaborate” instructions to get the house ready for his return, Mr Alessi said.
The billionaire and Maxwell were “together 95% of the time” and shared a bedroom, he told the court.
“There would be extensive preparation,” Mr Alessi told the court.
“Ghislaine would tell us to change his sheets, to change all sheets in the guest rooms, to make sure hundred dollar bills were in every car, she would tell us to run the house like a five star hotel.”
Mr Alessi gave evidence on the fourth day of Maxwell’s trial, which is expected to last six weeks.
The woman identified as “Jane” gave evidence on Wednesday, telling jurors how she had repeated sexual contact with Epstein when she was 14 – and that Maxwell was there when it happened.
The court was also shown new pictures revealing the jet-set life Maxwell and Epstein previously enjoyed.
What are the charges?
Maxwell faces a total of eight charges – including six counts of enticing minors and sex trafficking over a 10-year period.
The charges involve four alleged underage victims and multiple locations between 1994 and 2004. The youngest alleged victim was 14 years old at the time.
Maxwell also faces two counts of perjury which will be tried separately.
She denies all the charges and has pleaded not guilty.
Maxwell could be sentenced to 80 years in prison if found guilty of all counts.
Epstein killed himself aged 66 while on remand in a Manhattan jail awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.
He was found dead in his cell on 10 August, 2019.
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Who are the accusers?
Unlike the UK, alleged victims of sexual abuse in the US are not entitled to life-long anonymity. However the judge presiding over the Maxwell trial has ruled all four alleged victims can use a pseudonym or just their first name.
Alleged Victim 1 – (1994-1997) – New York and Palm Beach, Florida
Maxwell is said to have met the woman when she was 14 before grooming her by taking her on trips to the cinema and shopping. She is also said to have been present and involved in some of Epstein’s abuse.
Alleged Victim 2 – (1996) – New Mexico
Maxwell groomed the alleged victim, then 18, after Epstein invited her to his New Mexico ranch, prosecutors claim.
Alleged Victim 3 – (1994-1995) – London
Maxwell is said to have befriended the girl in London before introducing her to Epstein and encouraging her to give him massages, knowing this would lead to sexual abuse.
The location of the alleged abuse is not in the United States, but under US law crimes committed outside the country can be charged within it if the victim or victims are American citizens. Therefore, it is presumed the third alleged victim is an American citizen.
Alleged Victim 4 – (2001-2004) – Palm Beach, Florida
The accuser, then 14, claims she was recruited to give Epstein sexualised massages in exchange for money at his Palm Beach mansion.
Maxwell, said to have been present when the teenager was in the financier’s massage room, allegedly normalised the abuse by discussing sexual topics.