Not every Campfire attendee is a household name: Tech entrepreneurs and industry power brokers are also invited to rub shoulders with celebrities.
Now, Motherboard has learned that one of Campfire 2018's attendees was Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who is alleged to have been instrumental in grooming young women into convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's sex-trafficking ring. Reporting on Maxwell’s alleged role, via victim statements and court records, goes back to 2011.
Two Campfire 2018 attendees independently confirmed to Motherboard that Maxwell attended the exclusive retreat that year. One of the sources maintained that Maxwell had attended three Campfires including 2018, but that Maxwell was not an attendee at Campfire 2019 held in early October. Campfire 2018 took place shortly before a Miami Herald investigation resurfaced Epstein’s crimes and Maxwell’s alleged links to them, which eventually led to new charges against Epstein.
The news further illustrates the connections that Epstein and Maxwell maintained to the wealthy elite. Tech moguls, presidents, well-known actors, and Prince Andrew all came into their orbit even after Epstein's misdeeds and Maxwell's alleged role first came to light. In fact, a secretive 2011 dinner in Long Beach, California attended by Bezos and other tech CEOs was also attended by Epstein, less than two years after he served time for underage sex crimes.
Maxwell, who has never been charged or arrested and has only faced allegations in civil lawsuits, has always denied any wrongdoing or involvement with Epstein’s crimes and has made few public appearances since they first surfaced in media reports.
Amazon did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. Several requests for comment were also sent to Bezos’ space company Blue Origin, with no response.
Do you know something about Campfire? We would love to hear from you. Using a non-work computer or phone, you can contact Ben Makuch securely on Wickr @benmakuch. You can also reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org__, or on Twitter @BMakuch.
Started in 2009, Campfire is an all-expenses-paid retreat courtesy of Bezos and Amazon that is completely off the record for attendees, who often bring their spouses and partners on the free trip. With no front-facing website, almost nobody talking, and only occasional reports, the retreat has largely remained under the radar. Amazon's (and by extension, Bezos's) powerful status in the creative world has only grown since the company launched as an e-commerce site in 1994. Amazon has long been influential in publishing, and is now a film and television powerhouse via its Amazon Studios arm.
The sources who attended the 2018 retreat contacted by Motherboard confirmed key details of Maxwell’s appearance at Campfire that year.
Maxwell was accompanied by tech entrepreneur Scott Borgerson (who recently denied reports that the two were romantically linked), sources said. When Motherboard contacted Borgerson for comment on this story, messages sent directly to his company CargoMetrics and his LinkedIn account went unanswered. Maxwell was generally known for her non-profit ocean conservation company TerraMar Project, which shut down in July after federal charges against Epstein dropped.
Maxwell's location is currently unknown. Motherboard viewed what’s believed to be Maxwell’s private Instagram account, which last posted a photo in April 2017. A strange photo of Maxwell surfaced in August, showing her having a burger and milkshake at a fast-food joint in California, while reading a book on the CIA. Recent reports place Maxwell in Brazil, hiding out of public sight with another alleged Epstein associate. The lawyer of one of her accusers says she has disappeared and gone into hiding.