How a teen model was lured into Jeffrey Epstein's web
Anouska De Georgiou was living a charmed life in the mid-1990s. A teenage model from an affluent family in London, she had a future as bright as her mega-watt smile.
But then De Georgiou got sucked into Jeffrey Epstein's orbit through well-connected friends. They met for the first time in London. In time Epstein was flying her to his properties around the world, including his private island in the Caribbean, on his dime.
The grooming, De Georgiou said, was subtle but persistent — and pervasive.
"By the time I was being raped, it was too late," De Georgiou, recounting the details of her experience for the first time, told NBC NEWS as part of a months-long Dateline investigation airing Friday night at 10 p.m. ET.
The abuse, De Georgiou said, spanned several years and locales. In addition to the estate on his private island, De Georgiou said Epstein preyed on her at his homes in New York and Paris.
"And in every location there was this microcosm of acceptance, of yes people, who acted like this was normal," De Georgiou said.
"If you're a young person walking into a mansion or someone's island and all the people who are present are acting as though this is okay and you're the only one who thinks it's weird, it's hard to say something."
Epstein’s web of enablers are now at the center of a high-profile federal sex trafficking investigation.
Epstein, 66, was accused of sexually abusing and trafficking dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
The focus of the probe shifted to his recruiters and other associates after he hanged himself in a federal jail cell in Manhattan last month.
Among those believed to be in the investigators' crosshairs is Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion.
Maxwell’s association with Epstein has been chronicled for years. But new interviews with nearly two dozen Epstein accusers and multiple Maxwell acquaintances shed fresh light on the extent to which she and others allegedly abetted his sexual abuse of young women and girls.
Taken together, the accounts paint a portrait of a woman whose life appeared to revolve around finding a way to satisfy Epstein’s every whim, no matter how deviant.
“Jeffrey has the sickness but they worked together as a unit,” Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says she was abused by Epstein and Maxwell for several years starting in the late 1990s, told Dateline. “I was brought in by Ghislaine and at that time. She was the main procurer for Jeffrey.”
Maxwell’s lawyers didn’t return requests from comment. In a 2016 court deposition, the British-born socialite denied knowing about or playing any role in Epstein’s alleged abuse.
Maxwell, 57, has vanished from public life. It’s unclear where she lives, what she does, with whom she associates.
Her ultra-private existence marks a stark departure from her previous life as a high-flying socialite known for her vibrant personality and extraordinary connections.
The daughter of Robert Maxwell, a wealthy newspaper baron who died under a cloud of scandal, Ghislaine Maxwell was a fixture on the upper crust social circuits in New York and London.
“She was friends with politicians and royals and because she was such a popular person and easy to get on with, people wanted to be in her presence,” said Lady Victoria Hervey, a British model and socialite who befriended Maxwell around 2000.
Maxwell and Epstein were already an item by then, Hervey said.
“When I met them, I met them as a couple, and they were the hot ‘it couple’ of New York. And I sort of always thought that they would end up together and be married,” Hervey told Dateline. “People wanted to be invited to their events and dinners in their houses. They were like the most connected couple at the time in every city.”
But it was also around this time that Epstein was allegedly preying on young women and teenage girls — with Maxwell, several accusers say, acting as his chief recruiter.
Chauntae Davies says she was a 22-year-old aspiring masseuse when she was introduced to Maxwell by one of her massage teachers near the end of 2001.
“She and Jeffrey were already clients of his,” Davies said. “He reassured me that it was fine to take on this job.”
Davies said she was hired on the spot after a face-to-face meeting with Maxwell, and flown to Palm Beach that night.
Along the way, Maxwell made comments that Davies now recognizes as portending the sinister world she was about to enter.
Davies said Maxwell described her partner as a Ralph Lauren type and asked if she had the same taste in men.
Davies said she wasn’t sure how to respond.
“I thought it was like a weird question but for me in my young naive brain, I thought she’s just wanting some reassurance that her boyfriend is hot,” Davies said. “I didn’t think he was hot but I just kind of laughed it off. I may have been over 18 but I was also very still young in my mind and very naive in a lot of ways and genuinely just wanted to see the good in people.”
Davies knew that she would be providing massages but felt insecure given her lack of experience.
Maxwell, Davies said, was quick to allay her concerns, saying all she had to do was follow Epstein's instructions.
Davies said Epstein raped her at his private island a few months later after a handful of massage sessions. He raped her two or three times more, she said. Over the next few years, Davies said, she continued to perform massages that resulted in her engaging in what she called non-consensual sex with Epstein.
“I stopped fighting back,” Davies said. “I realized very early on he was going to do what he was going to do.”
Davies said she was receiving money from Epstein but she viewed it at the time as compensation for her massage services.
Davies said she would sometimes resist the invitations to visit Epstein but “Ghislaine would get on the phone or someone in their office and aggressively persuade me to go and give reasons why I should.”
“I wasn’t much of a fighter so I gave in very easily,” Davies said.
Giuffre’s entry into Epstein’s web follows the pattern of Davies and Benavidez.
A high-school aged spa attendant at Mar-A-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Florida, Giuffre was reading a book about massage therapy when she was approached by a woman on a quiet day in the summer of 2000.
“This beautiful, well spoken, well mannered woman with an English accent, prim and proper,” Giuffre told NBC News.
The woman, Giuffre would soon learn, was Ghislaine Maxwell. She immediately referenced Giuffre’s book.
“It's so funny that you're reading a book on that because I know this older gentleman who's looking for a traveling masseuse,” Maxwell said, according to Giuffre. “He's super rich. He flies around everywhere. If you want, you can come by for an interview.”
Giuffre was thrilled about the offer but wasn’t sure she was up to the job due to her lack of training.
“Don’t worry about it,” Maxwell said, Giuffre told NBC News. “He’s got amazing abilities to help people out. That’s what he likes to do.”
Giuffre has described what happened next in lawsuits and to a British paper several years ago. But speaking in her first TV interview, she provided an extensive account of her first encounter with Epstein.
After entering his Palm Beach mansion, Maxwell led her up a staircase and into a sparsely-furnished room.
“There’s this man laying naked on a green massage table in the middle of the room,” Giuffre said.
Epstein looked up at Maxwell and flashed a smile signaling that Giuffre described as a “cheshire cat grin.”
“He smiled and nodded as in, like, approval,” Giuffre said.
Maxwell grabbed a bottle of lotion and instructed the young masseuse to “grab one side of Jeffrey” and “just follow what I do,” Giuffre said.
They worked over Epstein’s legs, his back, his neck. Then Epstein unexpectedly turned over, Giuffre said.
“That’s when they told me to take my clothes off. That’s when Ghislaine started to take her clothes off,” Giuffre said. “In an instant, I knew what was happening. This wasn’t the first time I’d been abused.”
Giuffre had come from a troubled home and said she had suffered sexual abuse in the past.
Giuffre said she stripped down to her panties but was ordered to remove those as well. “But before they did that, they both looked at my undies and snickered and they said, “Oh, you’ve still got little girl undies,” she said.
With the teenage girl fully nude, Epstein and Maxwell started giving her commands, Giuffre said.
“They asked me to lick his nipples and give him oral sex,” Giuffre said. “Ghislaine was, I like to say, roving around in between, doing the same things that she asked me to do for him while touching me in my private areas as well.”
“And then at the very end,” Giuffre said, “they instructed me to get on top of Epstein and that’s how the night ended.
Giuffre, now a 36-year-old mother of three, said she still grapples with the question of why she allowed the abuse to go on for so long.
“Jeffrey and Ghislaine's way of keeping us under his thumb, under his rule, under their control, were invisible chains,” Giuffre said. “And it was that constant - ‘We own the police. You can't run. You can't tell anybody. We'll never be held accountable for this.’"
The pair also leveled threats, Giuffre said.
“Jeffrey was a mastermind at manipulation and so was Ghislaine,” Giuffre said. “They didn't just put a gun to your head and tell you, "If you don't do this you're gonna die." No. They used very quaint threats. One of the scariest threats that I ever had was that they farotold me they know where my little brother goes to school, and if I don't do what they say I know the outcome.”
Florida police caught on to Epstein’s behavior in the mid-2000s. But he ultimately struck a lenient 2008 deal with federal prosecutors that spared him the prospect of a long prison sentence.
Instead, he pleaded guilty to two state prostitution counts and served 13 months in a Palm Beach county jail in an arrangement that allowed him to leave for 12 hours a day, six days a week, on work release.
Despite her name appearing in news accounts tied to Epstein’s case, Maxwell glided past the scandal.
She remained a fixture on the New York social circuit, friends say, hosting parties that attracted a wide array of well-heeled guests
Maxwell transformed herself into a crusading environmentalist focused on protecting the ocean. She spoke before the United Nations and in a 2014 TED talk.
Pamela Ryckman, an author who befriended Maxwell in 2013 over what she says she believed was a shared passion for the environment and women’s empowerment, said there appeared to be two sides to her personality.
“On one hand, there was the very professional, earnest persona,” Ryckman said. “And yet at the same time, you'd find her in social situations and she was always pushing boundaries. She was always sort of saying something a little coy or a little bit sexual or touching people.”
“If you can have someone who behaves so differently from one environment to another, it makes it seem more likely that she actually had this double life, that she was able to manipulate and fool people into believing that she was who she seemed to be at any given moment,” Ryckman said. “She was a chameleon.”
But Maxwell would soon drop out of the public eye. Lady Victoria Hervey, Maxwell’s one-time friend, said she last saw her a year ago at a baby shower.
“She seemed totally normal, like the same as ever,” Hervey told NBC News. “She’s always so well put together and never seems affected by anything.”
Epstein was arrested in July. His suicide weeks later robbed his victims of the chance to see him held accountable for his alleged crimes.
But in late August, his victims were given the chance to tell their stories in open court.
Not long after, six women sat down together for an interview with NBC News, sharing their stories of abuse by Epstein and imploring investigators to pursue criminal charges against his enablers.
“There should be still some accountability for a lot of the people that were enabling Epstein,” Jennifer Aroaz, who says Epstein raped her when she was 15, told NBC News. “There are still people out there.”
Giuffre said she was plunged into mourning following Epstein’s death.
“Not because the world lost a monster. I wasn’t mourning the death of this man,” Giuffre said.
“I was mourning the death of my ability to hold this man accountable.”
Speaking out for the first time, Rachel Benavidez said she was fresh out of massage school when she was recruited by Maxwell to put her training to work at a ranch in the New Mexico desert owned by Epstein.
The job got off to a smooth start, with Benavidez working on Maxwell. Known as the Zorro Ranch, the property was extraordinary, featuring a main house painted pink with elevator banks in the hallways and Italian frescoes in the pool area.
Soon Benavidez was directed to massage Epstein. In time what had started as a dream opportunity massaging a pleasant and pretty woman turned into two years of abuse at the hands of Epstein, Benavidez said.
“I kind of liken it to the toad that’s thrown in the boiling water and jumps out immediately,” Benavidez said. "But I was more like the toad that was put in lukewarm water. And then all of a sudden it started boiling. And then you’re done.”
Epstein, Benavidez said, took advantage of her youth and her struggling financial state.
“Jeffrey was very manipulative,” Benavidez said. “He provided me with promises of continuing education and a clientele that's a world-class clientele. And that's kind of how he lured his tentacles into me.”
Her visits to the Zorro Ranch came to an end, she said, after she refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Benavidez said she confided in her sister Brandy many years ago. The sister, who was living with Benavidez at the time, confirmed to NBC News that she was told about the abuse by Epstein.
“She was inexperienced,” the sister said. “I don’t think she was sure how to set boundaries. She wanted opportunities and was trying to please clients.”
De Georgiou, the former British model, spoke out in court last month. But surrounded by her fellow survivors, she offered details of her experience with Epstein for the first time.
Her story is, in one way, strikingly different than that of many of Epstein's other accusers. She came from a life of privilege, growing up affluent in London.
Still, De Georgiou said, Epstein was able to identify and exploit her vulnerabilities as he treated her to his rarefied world.
“For me, I was involved in that kind of lifestyle growing up," De Georgiou said. "And so I thought I could cope. And I thought I could handle it."
De Georgiou said her grooming was carefully calculated. "It wasn't zero to 100 in one day. It was introduced piecemeal, along with constant emotional, financial reinforcement that this was the path, the only path,” she told NBC News.
She described a sick man who was equal parts captivating and frightening. “When Jeffrey would see me he would physically shake because he wanted to get at me," De Georgiou said. "And that was very unnerving."
She said she has largely moved past the pain and torment that plagued her for years, but one experience still haunts her.
While on Epstein's private island in the Caribbean, De Georgiou said, she saw a blonde girl that appeared even a few years younger than her teenage self.
"I wanted to say something," De Georgiou told NBC News. "I was in the ocean and she was on a paddleboard or something...and I wanted to say, 'You have to leave.' But I didn't."
She now runs a group home, called The Kintsugi Foundation, for women battling substance abuse and recovering from trauma.
"My healing came through that, that I could walk alongside these women and girls and be a witness to their suffering," De Georgiou said.
Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the other women, De Georgiou said she and her fellow survivors have developed a tight bond that has strengthened their resolve.
“No one else understands like somebody who’s experienced it,” De Georgiou said
“Jeffrey thought that we were disposable, and he threw us all away,” De Georgiou said. “And look who’s standing.”