The fight over Jeffrey Epstein’s estate has begun to take shape as a woman filed a lawsuit on Wednesday claiming the disgraced financier raped her when she was a teenager in 2002.
Jennifer Araoz sued Epstein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell and three unnamed members of his staff.
It was the first of many lawsuits expected to be filed by Epstein’s accusers as a new state law went into effect on Wednesday that opens up a one-year window for victims of long-ago sex crimes against children to take legal action.
Ms Araoz said: “Today is my first step toward reclaiming my power Jeffrey Epstein and his enablers stole from me.”
The Associated Press names alleged victims of sexual offences only if they consent to being identified, as Ms Araoz has done.
The lawsuit accuses Ms Maxwell of helping Epstein recruit teenage girls and providing “organizational support to Epstein’s sex trafficking ring.”
Ms Maxwell’s publicist and lawyers did not respond to emails seeking comment.
The socialite daughter of the late British publishing baron Robert Maxwell has previously denied wrongdoing, saying any allegations she was involved in arranging sex for Epstein were “abhorrent and entirely untrue”.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether any Epstein associates will face charges.
Epstein, 66, is believed to have killed himself early on Saturday while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
The cause of the death has not been announced, but a person familiar with operations at the lockup said Epstein was discovered in his cell with a bedsheet around his neck.
His death prompted the Justice Department to place two guards on leave and remove the jail’s warden pending the outcome of investigations by the FBI and the department’s inspector general. Falsifying log entries can be a federal crime.
In her lawsuit and in interviews, Ms Araoz said she was a 14-year-old freshman at a performing arts high school near Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in 2001 when she was approached on the sidewalk by an unidentified woman in her 20s who invited her to meet the financier.
Epstein began by giving her gifts and encouragement during her visits, then started asking for massages, groping her and having her take her clothes off, she said.
Ms Araoz said she stopped seeing Epstein in 2002 after he raped her at his townhouse when she was 15.
Ms Araoz’s lawyers said the young woman had no personal contact with Ms Maxwell but is suing her because she had been described in other court cases as having helped Epstein recruit underage girls for sex.