Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who was a longtime friend of the late accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested by the FBI on Thursday in the US state of New Hampshire.
Maxwell, who was also Epstein's girlfriend at one point, has been accused of luring underage girls into the late billionaire's circle, where he and his friends allegedly sexually abused them.
FBI spokesman Marty Feely said Maxwell was taken into custody around 8:30 a.m. local time.
She later appeared before a local magistrate via a video link accessible by telephone to journalists and the public.
Maxwell was ordered to be held in temporary detention pending a transfer to the Southern District of New York, where she is to be tried.
Maxwell has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has said that many of the claims against her are "absolute rubbish."
Up to 35 years in prison
An unsealed indictment shows Maxwell charged with six counts, which include enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and two counts of perjury, among other related offenses.
Maxwell has been accused of playing "a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse. In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself."
The indictment accuses Maxwell of luring the girls starting in 1994 and through 1997. She allegedly lured them by asking them about their lives, schools and families and taking them shopping or to movies.
''The victims were as young as 14-years-old when they were groomed and abused by Maxwell and Epstein, both of whom knew that certain victims were in fact under the age of 18,'' the indictment read.
If found guilty, she could face up to 35 years in prison, the indictment read. Prosecutors have asked for Maxwell to be detained while on trial, as they have deemed her a flight risk.
They also said she should not be placed in home confinement with an electronic monitoring device, because she could easily take the device off.
Epstein's 'highest-raking employee'
One of the most controversial accusations leveled against Maxwell was a claim by one Epstein victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who said the socialite arranged for her to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew at Maxwell's London townhouse.
In a separate lawsuit by another Epstein victim, Maxwell was described as the ''highest-ranking employee'' in the alleged sex trafficking operation.
Jennifer Araoz, a woman who accused Epstein of raping her in his New York mansion in 2002 when she was 15, said she the arrest meant the ring had finally been taken down.
''Day after day, I have waited for the news that Maxwell would be arrested and held accountable for her actions. Her arrest is a step in that direction, and it truly means that the justice system didn't forget about us.''
A lavish life in New York
Maxwell is the daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell, who founded a publishing house and owned tabloids, including the Daily Mirror.
In the early 1990s, she moved to New York, where she began a romantic relationship with Epstein, who was a financier at the time. The two lived a lavish style and frequently attended high society parties.
Maxwell largely disappeared from public view in 2016 and has been elusive since Epstein was charged with sex trafficking.
''More recently we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago,'' said William Sweeney, head of the FBI's New York office.
jcg/rs (Reuters, AP, dpa,AFP)