Jeffrey Epstein

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Jeffrey Epstein
Jeffrey Epstein mug shot.jpg
Epstein's 2006 mugshot
Born
Jeffrey Edward Epstein

(1953-01-20) January 20, 1953 (age 66)
EducationCooper Union
New York University
OccupationFinancier
Owner, Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation
Criminal chargeSex offender, Sex Trafficking
Criminal penalty13 months (2008)
Criminal statusUnder arrest

Jeffrey Edward Epstein (born January 20, 1953) is an American registered sex offender and financier.[1][2] Epstein began his career in finance at the investment bank Bear Stearns, before forming his own firm, J. Epstein & Co.

After the parent of a molested 14-year old girl complained to the police in 2005, Epstein eventually pled guilty and was convicted in a Florida state court in 2008 of soliciting a prostitute and of soliciting a 17-year-old girl for prostitution, for which he served 13 months in "custody with work release" as part of a plea deal where federal officials had identified 36 victims.[3][4] The plea deal was made by Alexander Acosta, who was then the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, who agreed to grant immunity from all federal criminal charges to Epstein. Epstein was arrested again on July 6, 2019, on federal charges for sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York.[5][6]

Early life

Epstein was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York to Jewish parents[7][8] Pauline (nee Stolofsky, 1918–2004)[9] and Seymour G. Epstein (1916–1991). Epstein's parents were married in 1952, shortly before his birth. Pauline worked as a school aide and was a homemaker. Seymour Epstein worked for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as a groundskeeper and gardener.[10][7] Jeffrey Epstein is the older of two siblings. Epstein and his brother Mark grew up in Sea Gate, Coney Island, Brooklyn.[11] In 1967, Epstein attended the National Music Camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.[12] He graduated in 1969 from Lafayette High School at age 16 having skipped two grades.[13][14][15] Later that year, he attended classes at Cooper Union until he changed colleges in 1971.[13][16] In the fall of 1971, he attended the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, but left without receiving a degree in 1974.[13][15]

Career

Epstein was hired in 1974 as a physics and mathematics teacher at the Dalton School in the Upper East Side of Manhattan,[13] where until the spring of that year Donald Barr was the headmaster.[17] He taught at the school from the fall of 1974 until the spring of 1976.[18][19][20] After teaching at Dalton School, Epstein started work as an options trader at Bear Stearns in 1976,[15] where he worked in the special products division, advising high-net-worth clients on tax strategies.[15] Proving successful in his financial career, Epstein became a limited partner at Bear Stearns in 1980. He later left Bear Stearns in 1981.[15][14]

In August 1981, Epstein founded his own consulting firm, Intercontinental Assets Group Inc. (I.A.G.),[21] which assisted clients in recovering stolen money from fraudulent brokers and lawyers.[14] Epstein described his work at this time as being a high-level bounty hunter. He told friends that he worked sometimes as a consultant for governments or for very rich people to recover embezzled funds, while at other times he worked for clients that had embezzled funds.[22][14] During this time period, Epstein met Steven Hoffenberg in London. They had been introduced through Douglas Leese, a defense contractor, and John Mitchell, the former US Attorney General.[14]

Steven Hoffenberg hired Epstein in 1987 as a consultant for Tower Financial Corporation, a collection agency that bought debts people owed to hospitals, banks, and phone companies.[23][24][25] For the consulting work, Epstein was paid $25,000 per month. One of Epstein's first assignments for Hoffenberg was to implement what turned out to be unsuccessful bids to take over Pan American World Airways in 1987 and Emery Air Freight Corp in 1988. Hoffenberg and Epstein worked closely together and traveled all around the world. In 1993, Tower Financial Corporation imploded as one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history which lost its investors over $450 million.[14] In court documents, Hoffenberg claims that Epstein was intimately involved in the scheme.[26][27][28] Epstein left the company before it collapsed and was never charged for being involved with the Ponzi scheme.[14]

The same year Epstein began consulting for Hoffenberg in 1987, he founded his own financial management firm, J. Epstein & Co.[21] The company was formed to manage the assets of clients with more than US$1 billion in net worth.[15] The main publicly known billionaire client of Epstein was Leslie Wexner, chairman and CEO of the L Brands corporation (formerly Limited Brands).[14][29] Soon after meeting Wexner in 1986, Epstein became his financial adviser and served as his "charge d'affaires" in his business dealings. By 1995, Epstein was a director of the Wexner Foundation and Wexner Heritage Foundation. He was also the president of Wexner's Property, which developed the town of New Albany outside Columbus, Ohio where Wexner lived. Although never employed by L Brands, he corresponded frequently with the company executives. He also often attended the Victoria's Secret fashion shows, and hosted at his New York City home the fashion models, and helped aspiring models get work with the company.[30] In 1996, Epstein changed the name of his firm to the Financial Trust Company[15] and, for tax advantages,[31] based it on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.[15]

In 2003, Epstein bid to acquire New York magazine.[32] Other bidders were advertising executive Donny Deutsch, investor Nelson Peltz, media mogul and New York Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, and film producer Harvey Weinstein. They were ultimately outbid by Bruce Wasserstein, a longtime Wall Street investment banker, who paid $55 million.[32] In 2004, Epstein and Zuckerman committed up to $25 million to finance Radar, a celebrity and pop culture magazine founded by Maer Roshan. Epstein and Zuckerman were equal partners in the venture. Roshan, as its editor-in-chief, retained a small ownership stake.[33]

In 2015, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Epstein invested in a startup headed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.[34][35][36]

Criminal proceedings

Initial developments (2005–06)

In March 2005, a woman contacted Florida's Palm Beach Police Department and alleged that her 14-year-old stepdaughter had been taken to Epstein's mansion by an older girl. There she was allegedly paid $300 to strip and massage Epstein.[37] She had allegedly undressed, but left the encounter wearing her underwear.[38] Police began an 11-month undercover investigation of Epstein, followed by a search of his home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also became involved in the investigation; subsequently, the police alleged that Epstein had paid several girls to perform sexual acts on him.[39] Interviews with five alleged victims and 17 witnesses under oath, a high school transcript and other items found in Epstein's trash and home allegedly showed that some of the girls involved were under 18.[40] The police search of Epstein's home found two hidden cameras and large numbers of photos of girls throughout the house, some of whom the police had interviewed in the course of their investigation.[38][41]

The International Business Times reported that papers filed in a 2006 lawsuit alleged that Epstein installed concealed cameras in numerous places on his property to record sexual activity with underage girls by prominent people for criminal purposes, such as blackmail.[42] Epstein allegedly "lent" girls to powerful people to ingratiate himself with them and also to gain possible blackmail information.[39] In 2015, evidence came to light that one of the powerful men at Epstein's mansion may have been Prince Andrew, Duke of York.[39] A former employee told the police that Epstein would receive massages three times a day.[38] Eventually the FBI received accounts from 36 girls whose allegations of molestation by Epstein included overlapping details.[39]

In May 2006, Palm Beach police filed a probable cause affidavit saying that Epstein should be charged with four counts of unlawful sex with minors and one molestation count.[38][43]

Epstein's team of defense lawyers included Roy Black, who defended William Kennedy Smith, celebrity (i.e. Russell Crowe) and financial crimes specialist,[44] Gerald Lefcourt, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, and in 2007, the Special Prosecutor of Bill Clinton, Ken Starr.[37][45]

The state prosecutor convened a Palm Beach County grand jury. Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter then accused the state attorney of being too lenient and was instrumental in transferring the case to the FBI.[37] The grand jury returned a single charge of felony solicitation of prostitution,[46] to which Epstein pleaded not guilty in August 2006.[47]

Non-prosecution agreement (NPA) (2007–08)

The FBI investigation resulted in a 53-page federal grand jury indictment. Alexander Acosta, then the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, agreed to a plea deal to grant immunity from all federal criminal charges to Epstein, along with four named co-conspirators and any unnamed "potential co-conspirators". According to the Miami Herald, the non-prosecution agreement "essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein's sex crimes." At the time, this halted the investigation and sealed the indictment. The Miami Herald states: "Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims."[3]

Acosta later said he had been told that Epstein "belonged to intelligence", was "above his pay grade" and to "leave it alone".[48] Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state prostitution charges, register as a sex offender, and pay restitution to three dozen victims identified by the FBI.[3] The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported, "Despite this, the US government eventually agreed to allow Epstein to plead guilty to just one count of soliciting prostitution from an underage girl under Florida state law. ... Epstein agreed not to contest civil claims brought by the 40 women identified by the FBI, but escaped a prosecution that could have seen him jailed for the rest of his life."[39] But he was allowed to choose (and agreed to pay) the victims’ lawyers in the civil suits (but not any other lawyers they chose). This arrangement resulted in Epstein being able to pressure the victims using private investigators, and in effect to contest and settle many of the civil suits.

More precisely, for his NPA plea Epstein was allowed to select his victim and plead guilty to procuring for prostitution an older 17-year old minor girl (whose age when molested was not precisely stated), rather than the original 14-year old complainant. Florida age of consent is 18. But it is lower in many states (for example, 17 in N.Y.) thereby reducing the degree of the crime in classification for registration as a sex offender and in the eyes of the public.

The NPA deal was declared illegal in February 2019 due to its victims not being notified.[49]

Conviction and sentencing (2008–11)

In June 2008, after Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge (one of two) of procuring for prostitution a girl below age 18 ,[50] he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Instead of being sent to state prison as are the majority of sex offenders convicted in Florida, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Jail. He was able to hire his own security detail and was allowed "work release" to his downtown office for up to 12 hours a day six days a week.[51] Despite a rule forbidding work release for sex offenders, he was given such privileges by the Palm Beach Sheriff on the pretext that he had not yet registered as a sex offender. He served 13 months before being released for a year of probation. While on probation he was allowed numerous trips on his corporate jet to his residences in Manhattan and the U.S. Virgin Islands.[52]

At release, he was registered in New York State as a level three (high risk of repeat offense) sex offender, a lifelong designation.[53][54] Epstein has been a registered sex offender since 2008.[2]

Reactions

The immunity agreement and his lenient treatment were the subject of ongoing controversy. The Palm Beach police chief accused the state of giving him preferential treatment,[37] and the Miami Herald said U.S. Attorney Acosta gave Epstein "the deal of a lifetime".[3]

After the accusations became public, several persons and institutions returned donations that they had received from Epstein, including Eliot Spitzer, Bill Richardson,[55] and the Palm Beach Police Department.[40] Harvard University announced it would not return any money.[55] Various charitable donations that Epstein had made to finance children's education were also questioned.[50]

On June 18, 2010, Epstein's former house manager, Alfredo Rodriguez, was sentenced to 18 months' incarceration after being convicted on an obstruction charge for failing to turn over to police, and subsequently trying to sell, a journal in which he had recorded Epstein's activities. FBI Special Agent Christina Pryor reviewed the material and agreed it was information "that would have been extremely useful in investigating and prosecuting the case, including names and contact information of material witnesses and additional victims."[56][57]

Lawsuits

The case was scheduled to be examined in court in December 2018 as part of a state civil lawsuit by attorney Bradley Edwards against Epstein. The trial was expected to provide victims with their first opportunity to make their accusations publicly. However, the case was settled on the first day of the trial, with Epstein apologizing to Edwards; other terms of the settlement were confidential.[58]

An additional long-running lawsuit is pending in federal court, aimed at vacating the federal plea agreement on the grounds that it violated victims' rights.[58] On April 7, 2015, Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that the allegations made by alleged victim Virginia Roberts against Prince Andrew had no bearing on the lawsuit by alleged victims seeking to reopen Epstein's non-prosecution plea agreement with the federal government; the judge ordered that allegation to be struck from the record.[59] Judge Marra made no ruling as to whether claims by Roberts are true or false. There was an effort to add Roberts and another woman as plaintiffs to that case.[60] Marra specifically said that Roberts may later give evidence when the case comes to court.[61]

Other civil lawsuits

On February 6, 2008, an anonymous Virginia woman filed a $50 million civil lawsuit[62] in federal court against Epstein, alleging that when she was a 16-year-old minor in 2004–2005, she was "recruited to give Epstein a massage". She claims she was taken to his mansion, where he exposed himself and had sexual intercourse with her, and paid her $200 immediately afterward.[46] A similar $50 million suit was filed in March 2008 by a different woman, who was represented by the same lawyer.[63] These and several similar lawsuits were dismissed.[64] All other lawsuits have been settled by Epstein out of court.[65] Epstein has made many out-of-court settlements with alleged victims and, as of January 2015, some cases remain open.[64]

A December 30, 2014, federal civil suit was filed in Florida against the United States for violations of the Crime Victims' Rights Act by the Department of Justice's agreement to Epstein's limited 2008 plea; the suit also accuses Alan Dershowitz of sexually abusing a minor provided by Epstein.[66] (See Two Jane Does v. United States.) The allegations against Dershowitz were stricken by the judge and eliminated from the case because he said they were outside the intent of the suit to re-open the plea agreement.[59][67] A document filed in court alleges that Epstein ran a "sexual abuse ring", and lent underage girls to "prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister, and other world leaders".[68]

A federal lawsuit filed in California in April 2016 against Epstein and Donald Trump by a California woman alleged that the men sexually assaulted her at a series of parties at Epstein's Manhattan residence in 1994, when she was 13 years old. The suit was dismissed by a federal judge in May 2016 because it did not raise valid claims under federal law. The woman filed another federal suit in New York in June 2016, but it was withdrawn three months later, apparently without being served on the defendants. A third federal suit was filed in New York in September 2016. The two latter suits included affidavits by an anonymous witness who attested to the accusations in the suits, asserting Epstein employed her to procure underage girls for him, and an anonymous person who declared the plaintiff had told him/her about the assaults at the time they occurred. The plaintiff, who had filed anonymously as Jane Doe, was scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles press conference six days before the 2016 election, but abruptly canceled the event; her lawyer Lisa Bloom asserted that the woman had received threats. The suit was dropped on November 4, 2016. Trump attorney Alan Garten flatly denied the allegations, while Epstein declined to comment.[69][70][71][72][73]

In January 2015, a 31-year-old American woman, Virginia Roberts (now Virginia Giuffre),[74] alleged in a sworn affidavit that at the age of 17, she had been held as a sex slave by Epstein.[75] She further alleged that he had trafficked her to several people, including Prince Andrew[76][77] and Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz.[74] Roberts also claimed that Epstein and others had physically and sexually abused her.[76] Roberts alleged that the FBI may have been involved in a cover-up.[77] She said she had served as Epstein's sex slave from 1999 to 2002 and had recruited other under-age girls.[78] Prince Andrew, Epstein, and Dershowitz all denied having had sex with Roberts. Dershowitz took legal action over the allegations.[79][80][81] A diary purported to belong to Roberts was published online.[82][83] Epstein entered an out-of-court settlement with Roberts, as he has done in several other lawsuits.[39] The BBC television series Panorama planned an investigation of the scandal.[84] As of 2016, these claims had not been tested in any court of law.[85]

Appeals in 2019

On February 21, 2019, Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida Kenneth Marra said federal prosecutors violated the law by failing to notify victims before they allowed him to plead guilty to only the Florida offense. The judge left open what the possible remedy could be.[86]

On March 11, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit gave parties one week to provide good cause as to why the summary judgement and case documents should remain under seal, without which they would be unsealed on March 19, 2019.[87][88]

Trafficking charges

US v. Jeffrey Epstein indictment[1]

On July 6, 2019, Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on sex trafficking charges.[89][90] The New York Times initially reported incorrectly that he had been arrested in New York.[7]

According to witnesses and sources on the day of his arrest, about a dozen FBI agents forced open the door to his Manhattan townhouse, the Herbert N. Straus House, with search warrants. The search of his townhouse turned up evidence of sex trafficking and also found "hundreds – and perhaps thousands – of sexually suggestive photographs of fully – or partially – nude females." Some of the photos were confirmed as those of underage females. In a locked safe, compact discs were found with handwritten labels including the descriptions: "Young [Name] + [Name]", "Misc nudes 1", and "Girl pics nude".[91] There were also found in the safe piles of cash, diamonds, and an expired fraudulent Austrian passport from 1987, which had Epstein's image but another name. The passport had numerous entrance and exit stamps, including entrance stamps that showed the use of the passport to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. The passport showed his place of residence as Saudi Arabia.[92][93][94][95][96]

Two days later, prosecutors with the Public Corruption Unit of the Southern District of New York charged him with sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors for sex. Court documents allege that at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein's mansion for sexual encounters.[5][6][97] Judge Kenneth Marra is currently deciding whether the non-prosecution agreement that protected Epstein from the more serious charges should still stand.[98]

Personal life

Previous long term girlfriends associated with Epstein include publishing heir Ghislaine Maxwell who he met in 1992.[99][100][101] Maxwell was implicated by several of Epstein's accusers as procuring or recruiting underage girls in addition to once being Epstein's girlfriend.[102][100][101]

Epstein was a longtime acquaintance of Prince Andrew and Tom Barrack,[103] and has attended parties with many prominent people, including Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump,[104] Katie Couric, and Woody Allen.[105] His contacts also included Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and British prime minister Tony Blair.[106][107] Both Bill Clinton[108] and Donald Trump[109] claimed that they never visited Epstein's island. Epstein owned a private Boeing 727 jet, nicknamed "Lolita Express" by the press, and traveled in it frequently, logging "600 flying hours a year (...) usually with guests on board."[110][111][112] In September 2002, Epstein flew Clinton, Kevin Spacey, and Chris Tucker to Africa in his private jet.[113][114][15][111] Flight records show Clinton flew on Epstein's plane 26 times to at least a dozen international locations.[115][116] Flight logs did not list any secret service detail for several trips.[115] A Clinton spokesperson later stated Clinton took four trips on Epstein's airplane, making stops on three continents, all with his staff and Secret Service detail.[117]

In a profile of Epstein in New York magazine in 2002, former Democratic Senate leader George J. Mitchell said of Epstein, "I would certainly call him a friend and a supporter." In the same article, Donald Trump remarked, "I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. 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."[118] In July 2019, Trump said "I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him," stating four times he was not "a fan" of Epstein and that he had severed ties with him about 15 years prior. Video released that month showed the two men partying together at Mar-a-Lago in 1992.[119][120][121][122] By 2007,[123] Epstein was reported to have been banned from Trump's club.[124][125][126] The ban allegation was included in court documents filed by attorney Bradley Edwards[127], although Edwards later said he was unable to confirm it.[128][129] Bill Clinton lauded Epstein as "a committed philanthropist" with "insights and generosity." At the time Epstein was on the board of Rockefeller University, a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, and was a major donor to Harvard University.[130]

From 1989 up until 2003, Epstein donated more than $139,000 to Democratic federal candidates and committees and over $18,000 to Republican candidates and groups.[131]

In April 2003, New York magazine reported Epstein hosted a dinner party in his Manhattan residence to honor Bill Clinton, who did not attend, although Trump did attend.[132]

Wealth

According to New York magazine, in 2008 when Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to soliciting prostitution, his lawyers stated he was a billionaire with a net worth of over one billion dollars.[133]

A number of sources have questioned the extent of Epstein's wealth and his status as a billionaire. According to an article in The New York Times, his "fortune may be more illusion than fact". Epstein lost "large sums of money" in the 2008 financial crisis, and "friends and patrons" — including retail billionaire Leslie H. Wexner, "deserted him" following his pleading guilty to prostitution charges in 2008.[24] New York magazine claimed that "there's scant proof" of Epstein's "financial bona fides",[133] and Forbes also ran an article entitled "Why sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is not a billionaire". Spencer Kuvin, an attorney for three of Epstein's alleged victims in the case where Epstein pleaded guilty to sexual activity with minors, stated that "he and his team 'pursued every possible angle' to find out Epstein's net worth but found that much of his wealth is offshore."[134] According to Bloomberg, "Today, so little is known about Epstein's current business or clients that the only things that can be valued with any certainty are his properties."[135]

Federal prosecutors on July 12, 2019 stated in court documents, that based on records from one financial institution, that Jeffrey Epstein was "extravagantly wealthy" and had assets worth at least $500 million and earned more than $10 million a year. The extent of his wealth, however, was not known since he had not filled out a financial affidavit for his bail application.[136][137][138]

Residences

Epstein owns the Herbert N. Straus House on East 71st Street in the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City.[139] It is reputedly the largest private residence in Manhattan at 21,000 sq ft (2,000 m2).[139][39] The financier's other properties include a residence in Palm Beach, Florida;[139][140] an apartment in Paris;[139] a 7,500-acre (30 km2) ranch near Stanley, New Mexico;[139][141][142][37] and a private island near Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands called Little Saint James, which includes a mansion and guest houses, and the neighboring island of Great Saint James.[75][143] Epstein was building a compound on the latter including an amphitheater and "underwater office & pool" but ran into problems when a stop-work order was issued in late 2018; work continued despite the order.[144]

Philanthropy

In 1991, Epstein was one of four donors who pledged to raise $2 million for a Hillel student building Rosovsky Hall at Harvard University.[145][146] In 2000, Epstein established the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, which funds science research and education. Prior to 2003, the foundation funded Martin Nowak's research at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In May 2003, Epstein pledged a series of donations totaling $30 million to create a mathematical biology and evolutionary dynamics program at Harvard which was run by Martin Nowak.[145] According to The Boston Globe, the actual amount received from Epstein was $6.5 million.[145][146][55]

The true extent of Epstein's philanthropy is unknown. This foundation fails to disclose information which other charities routinely disclose. Concerns have been raised over this lack of transparency, and in 2015 the Attorney General of New York was reported to be trying to get information.[147]

Some Epstein science sponsorship may be manufactured fake news. For example, in 2019, Forbes deleted a 2013 article[148] after The New York Times revealed its author, Drew Hendricks, had been paid $600 to write it.[149]

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Further reading

External links