The former house manager of Jeffrey Epstein's Palm Beach, Florida, estate testified on Thursday that the very first time he met Ghislaine Maxwell, in approximately 1991, she made it very clear to him that she occupied a central role in Epstein's affairs.
"She right away took over," Juan Alessi told the jury on the fourth day of Maxwell's criminal trial on multiple charges of child sex trafficking. "And right away she mentioned to me she was going to be the lady of the house."
Alessi, 72, said that from about 1991 to 2002 he was responsible for overseeing Epstein's house and its staff, and that in that role he communicated with Maxwell on "a daily basis" as she passed along orders for him from Epstein.
Maxwell, Epstein's former girlfriend and longtime associate, faces a six-count indictment for allegedly conspiring with and aiding Epstein in his sexual abuse of underage girls between 1994 and 2004. She has been held without bail since her arrest in July 2020 and has pleaded not guilty to the charges and proclaimed her innocence.
Alessi's testimony could provide prosecutors an important connection between Maxwell and the government's key witness. "Jane" has previously testified that she suffered sexual abuse by Epstein beginning in 1994 when she was 14 years old and continuing for several years, and she has accused Maxwell of facilitating and sometimes even participating in that abuse.
Alessi testified that, on multiple occasions, his orders included picking up "Jane" and driving her to and from Epstein's house at the behest of both Epstein and Maxwell.
"Do you remember Mr. Epstein instructing you to pick [Jane] up?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey.
"Yes," he said.
"Do you remember Miss Maxwell instructing you to pick [Jane] up?" Comey asked.
"Yes," he said.
He picked her up, he said, because, "I don't think she had a license."
Alessi testified that he didn't have any knowledge of what "Jane" did while she was at the house. He just "brought her to Miss Maxwell at her desk," he said, and "from there, it was not my job to see where they were."
On Tuesday, "Jane" testified that she recalled being picked up for visits to Epstein's house by a man who worked at the house.
"I don't remember his name, but he was a sweet Latin American man," she said.
Alessi, who was born in Ecuador, said he also recalled seeing Jane with luggage "maybe twice" at Epstein's house, and described an occasion where he drove Jane, along with Epstein, Maxwell and Maxwell's dog, a Yorkie named Max, to the Palm Beach airport to board Epstein's private plane. "Jane" testified on Tuesday that she traveled to both New York and New Mexico with Epstein and Maxwell, where she suffered further abuse, and that her travel was sometimes arranged by Maxwell.
Alessi testified that during his decade-plus tenure working for Epstein, he witnessed "two females ... who appeared to be underage." He identified "Jane" -- now a 41-year-old woman who testified earlier this week -- and Virginia Roberts, as the two females who appeared to him to be under age.
Roberts -- who is one of Maxwell's most high-profile accusers -- is not expected to testify in this trial.
Alessi described being in the driver's seat as Maxwell jumped out on a car ramp in front of Mar-a-Lago to talk to Roberts. The next time Alessi saw her, he said, was later that day at Epstein's Palm Beach home.
According to Alessi, during his time working for Epstein, there were "other girls constantly flying in" to the Palm Beach estate with Epstein and Maxwell.
One of Alessi's key responsibilities, according to a "Household Manual" that Alessi testified looked like an updated version of one originally by Maxwell and presented to him near the end of his tenure, was discretion.
"I am sorry to say that it was degrading to me," Alessi said.
During his testimony, prosecutors highlighted a passage in the manual that read: "Remember that you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question directed at you. Respect their privacy."
Asked to describe what he interpreted that instruction to mean, Alessi replied, "that I was supposed to be blind, deaf and dumb, and say nothing."
Another passage displayed in court instructed the staff to "NEVER disclose Mr. Epstein or Ms Maxwell's activities or whereabouts to anyone."
"Do not be bullied and do not show any reaction or impatience, simply be firm," the manual states.
Late in the afternoon Thursday, Alessi testified that he saw people who would come in to give Epstein massages, and that "98% of them were females." He added that Epstein took a majority of his massages in his bathroom -- attached to Epstein's master bedroom -- which Alessi said was shared with Maxwell.
Alessi said that he "never" went inside the room when Epstein was receiving the massages and that the door was "never" open during the massages. But Alessi said he would go into the room after massages "to clean up."
Asked by Comey if he ever found something "unexpected" after Epstein's massages, Alessi said he did on several occasions in the mid-1990s.
"I remember finding a large dildo. It looked like a huge man's penis with two heads," which he said he returned to a wicker basket in Maxwell's bathroom, which is where he said it he was told to put it.
According to Alessi, other items he observed in the wicker basket -- which he said was kept inside a garbage can -- included pornography tapes and a black leather costume.
Maxwell's attorneys are expected to begin their cross-examination of Alessi on Friday morning.