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In an indictment released Monday, federal prosecutors are accusing financier Jeffrey Epstein of sex trafficking dozens of minors in two states between 2002 and 2005. The indictment also accuses the multimillionaire of using his massive fortune to, “create a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit.”
Prosecutors believe Epstein paid girls for massages that turned into sexual acts and then—in a sort-of pyramid scheme—paid them even more money to fetch him new victims. He was arrested Saturday at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey by the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force, after arriving on a private jet from France. According to AP News, he has been ordered jailed until a bail hearing Thursday, after pleading not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges.
Back in 2005, Epstein essentially received a slap on the wrist back for a widely-criticized plea deal involving similar allegations of molestation in Florida. His case has faced new scrutiny in the #MeToo era as an example of a powerful and rich man avoiding accountability for his alleged transgressions. Here’s everything you need to know.
Epstein, a multimillionaire financier and investor, has a fortune estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars
The money manager parlayed his success in business to connect with important politicians and socialites, including friendships with Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” our president said in a 2002 interview with New York magazine. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
As journalist Vicky Ward, who wrote a profile of Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2011, pointed out on Twitter, “Epstein’s friendships are not insignificant. They are a BIG part of this story.”
The allegations against Epstein date back to 2005, when a 14-year-old girl and her parents claimed that Epstein molested her at a mansion in Palm Beach
The girl and her parents claimed that one of her classmates from Royal Palm Beach High School in Palm Beach took her to a large house to give Epstein a massage, “in exchange for money,” according to Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown, who exposed Epstein last November in a piece titled “Perversion of Justice.”
He came under investigation in 2005 and, according to NBC, Palm Beach investigators spoke with five alleged victims and 17 different witnesses. Per NBC:
The investigative files alleged Epstein brought the girls to his house under the guise that they would give him massages, which police said would turn sexual. Some of the girls told police Epstein would use sex toys on them while he got a “massage.” In another instance, one said she was paid to have sex with one of Epstein’s female assistants, and several girls reported that Epstein touched their vaginas while he masturbated.
Joseph Recarey, a detective on the case, described Epstein’s pattern of abuse as being like a “sexual pyramid scheme.” Epstein allegedly paid underage girls anywhere from $200 to $1,000 for a “massage.” Then, he offered them more money to bring him more girls.
In Brown’s piece Perversion of Justice, she identified 80 women who claim they were molested or sexually abused by Epstein. A woman named Courtney Wild says she recruited 70 or 80 girls for Epstein.
Epstein has said that any encounters he had with his accusers were consensual. He claims that he believed they were all 18.
Epstein infamously avoided federal charges and possible life sentence
According to Vox, the FBI had a 53-page indictment ready in 2007 that would have likely put Epstein behind bars for life. Instead, he was punished with just 13 months in a comfy county jail, thanks to a deal signed by then U.S. attorney for Miami, Alexander Acosta, who is now President Trump’s secretary of labor. The deal essentially concealed Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.
Epstein’s deal, called a “non-prosecution agreement,” granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators,” meaning that if any of Epstein’s powerful friends were involved in his crimes, they would face no consequences. And Acosta agreed that the deal would be kept secret from the victims, preventing them from showing up in court to try to challenge it.
In December 2018, Epstein reached a settlement in a new lawsuit set for trial in Florida, which would have seen several of his alleged victims testify for the first time. Just one month later, a federal judge ruled that prosecutors under Acosta violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, “by not letting more than 30 identified victims know of the deal so they would have a chance to oppose it,” according to Reuters. However, Federal prosecutors said there was no legal basis for invalidating the agreement.
On Saturday, Epstein was arrested at a New Jersey airport
This is the latest development in the Epstein case. An indictment that was unsealed on Monday in federal court in New York, showed that he was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy. It also accuses Epstein of using his wealth to “create a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit.”
The indictment covers alleged transgressions from 2002 and 2005 that involved girls as young as 14.
According to The Daily Beast, federal prosecutors also revealed Monday that FBI investigators discovered nude images of girls in a weekend raid of Epstein’s Manhattan Upper East Side townhouse. According to the outlet, prosecutors wrote the following in a memo requesting Epstein be jailed until his trial: “The defendant, a registered sex offender, is not reformed, he is not chastened, he is not repentant. Rather, he is a continuing danger to the community and an individual who faces devastating evidence supporting deeply serious charges.”
He has pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges. Federal prosecutors have made an appeal for any women abused by Epstein to come forward.
“They deserve their day in court and we are proud to stand up for them by bringing this indictment,” said U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, according to The New York Times.