The FBI says she was taken into federal custody without incident around 8:30 a.m. in New Hampshire. She is charged with conspiracy to entice minors to engage in sex acts.
She is charged out of the Southern District of New York, which has never stopped investigating Epstein's associates even after his death by suicide at MCC-Manhattan while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell, 58, has been accused by several women of enabling, facilitating or participating in their abuse.
Victims claim she recruited them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex.
Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.
The six-count indictment alleges that from at least 1994 to 1997, Maxwell assisted, facilitated and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein's abuse of minor girls.
Federal prosecutors in New York said Maxwell helped Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately abuse girls as young as 14.
"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," William Sweeney, head of the FBI's New York office, told a news conference Thursday.
The indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, included counts of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and perjury.
"Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable," Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said.
She called the charges against Maxwell a "prequel" to charges prosecutors brought against Epstein a year ago.
Maxwell, who lived for years with Epstein, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her "absolute rubbish."
Epstein victim Jennifer Araoz, who sued Maxwell, issued the following statement:
"Today, my fellow Epstein survivors and I are able to take a breath of relief, as Maxwell's arrest means some justice for survivors can exist. For years, I feared Epstein and his ring. Maxwell was the center of that sex trafficking ring. Now that the ring has been taken down, I know that I can't be hurt anymore. 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."
Among the most sensational accusations was a claim by Virginia Roberts Giuffre that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew at her London townhouse. Giuffre bolstered her allegations with a picture of her, Andrew and Maxwell that she said was taken at the time.
Andrew denied her story and Maxwell said in a deposition that Giuffre was "totally lying."
He was not mentioned by name in the indictment, and the charges covered Maxwell's dealings with Epstein only from 1994 through 1997, a period well before his alleged encounters with Giuffre in 2001.
Strauss said she would "welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us," but did not answer further questions pertaining to these charges and Andrew.
Last week, a fund set up to compensate Epstein's victims opened for claims, enabling dozens of women attacked by the financier when they were as young as 14 to seek a cut of his $630 million estate.
A judge in the Virgin Islands approved the fund last month, facilitating payouts to women abused by Epstein before New York federal prosecutors charged him last year with sex trafficking of women and girls in the early 2000s. He'd long ago been convicted of charges in Florida state court.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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