Jeffrey Epstein was a wealthy financier and convicted sex offender who began his professional life as a teacher but switched to banking and finance, where he became extremely successful. He developed an elite social circle and procured a great many women, including underage girls, who were subject to rape and other forms of sexual abuse, both from Epstein and his associates. He was eventually indicted, but then he died under highly suspicious circumstances in jail while awaiting trial.
Jeffrey Epstein was born in 1953 in Brooklyn to Jewish parents Pauline and Seymour G. Epstein. Pauline was a school aide and homemaker. Seymour Epstein worked for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as a groundskeeper and gardener. Jeffrey Epstein was the older of two brothers. Epstein and his brother Mark grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Sea Gate, Coney Island, Brooklyn.
Epstein attended local public schools, first Public School 188 and then Mark Twain Junior High School nearby. In 1967, he attended the National Music Camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He began playing the piano when he was five. He graduated in 1969 from Lafayette High School at age 16, having skipped two grades. From there he took classes at Cooper Union until he changed colleges in 1971. From September 1971, he attended the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, but left without receiving a degree in June 1974.
Epstein started working in September 1974 as a physics and math teacher for teens at the Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He was hired by Donald Barr (father of U.S. Attorney General William Barr). Epstein taught at the exclusive private school from late 1974 until he was dismissed in June 1976 for "poor performance". While teaching at the school, Epstein became acquainted with Alan Greenberg, the CEO of Bear Stearns, whose son and daughter were students at Dalton. Greenberg's daughter, Lynne Koeppel, pointed to a parent-teacher conference where Epstein influenced another Dalton parent into advocating for him to Greenberg. Greenberg, impressed with Epstein's intelligence and drive for financial success, offered him a job at Bear Stearns.
Epstein joined Bear Stearns in 1976 as a low-level junior assistant to a floor trader. He moved up swiftly to become an options trader, advising the bank's wealthiest clients. In 1980, Epstein became a limited partner.
In 1981, he was asked to leave Bear Stearns for regulation violations but stayed close to Cayne and Greenberg and was a client of the firm until it collapsed in 2008.
In August 1981, Epstein started his own consulting firm, Intercontinental Assets Group Inc. (IAG), which helped clients recover stolen money from fraudulent brokers and lawyers. Epstein likened the work to being a high-level bounty hunter. He told friends that he worked sometimes as a consultant for governments and the very wealthy to recover embezzled funds, while at other times he worked for the embezzlers themselves.
Epstein also told some people at the time that he was an intelligence agent. Whether this was true or not isn't clear. During the 1980s, Epstein had an Austrian passport that had his photo but a false name. The passport showed his place of residence in Saudi Arabia. Investigative journalist Vicky Ward said she was told in 2017 by "a former senior White House official" that U.S. Florida District Attorney Alexander Acosta, who handled Epstein's criminal case in 2008, said to Trump transition interviewers "I was told Epstein 'belonged to intelligence' and to leave it alone" and that Epstein was "above his pay grade".
At this time, one of Epstein's clients was the Saudi Arabian businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who was the middleman in transferring American weapons from Israel to Iran, during the Iran–Contra affair in the 1980s. Khashoggi was one of several defense contractors that Epstein knew. In the mid-1980s, he traveled multiple times between the U.S., Europe, and Southwest Asia. While in London, Epstein met Steven Hoffenberg. They had been introduced through Douglas Leese, a defense contractor, and John Mitchell, the former U.S. Attorney General.
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. Hoffenberg set Epstein up in offices in Manhattan and paid him $25,000 per month.
The two then decided to become corporate raiders, using Tower Financial as their raiding vessel. One of Epstein's first assignments was to set up what turned out to be a failed bid to take over Pan American World Airways in 1987. Another failed bid in 1988 was made to take over Emery Air Freight Corp. During this period, Hoffenberg and Epstein worked closely together and traveled everywhere on Hoffenberg's private jet.
In 1993, Tower Financial Corporation imploded as one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history, losing investors almost half a billion dollars. In court documents, Hoffenberg claimed that Epstein was intimately involved in the scheme, but Epstein had left the company by 1989 before it collapsed and was never charged. It's unknown if he received any of the stolen funds.
In 1988, while Epstein was still consulting for Hoffenberg, he founded his own financial management firm, J. Epstein & Company. Epstein said he founded the company to exclusively manage the assets of billionaire clients, but some are skeptical that he had the wherewithal to be so discriminating.
The only publicly known billionaire client of Epstein was Leslie Wexner, chairman and CEO of L Brands and Victoria's Secret. Epstein met Wexner in 1986 through mutual acquaintances. A year later, Epstein became Wexner's financial adviser and served as his right-hand man. Within the year, Epstein had sorted out Wexner's tangled finances. In July 1991, Wexner granted Epstein full power of attorney over his affairs. This allowed Epstein to hire people, sign checks, buy and sell properties, borrow money, and do anything else of a legally binding nature on Wexner's behalf.
By 1995, Epstein was a director of the Wexner Foundation and Wexner Heritage Foundation. Epstein made millions in fees by managing Wexner's financial affairs. Although never employed by L Brands, he corresponded frequently with company executives. Epstein often attended Victoria's Secret fashion shows, and hosted the models at his New York City home, as well as helping aspiring models get work with the company.
In 1996, Epstein changed the name of J. Epstein & Company to the Financial Trust Company and, for tax advantages, based it on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. By doing this, Epstein was able to save on his federal income taxes by 90 percent.
In 2003, Epstein made a bid to acquire New York magazine. Other bidders included advertising executive Donny Deutsch, investor Nelson Peltz, media mogul and New York Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, and film producer Harvey Weinstein. The ultimate buyer was Bruce Wasserstein, a longtime Wall Street investment banker, who paid US$55 million.
In 2004, Epstein and Zuckerman put up to $25 million into Radar, a celebrity and pop culture magazine. It folded after three issues.
Epstein was the president of the company Liquid Funding Ltd. between 2000 and 2007. It was an early pioneer in expanding the kind of debt that could be accepted on repurchase, otherwise known as the "repo market", which involves a lender giving money to a borrower in exchange for securities that the borrower then agrees to buy back at an agreed-upon later time and price.
Liquid Funding was initially 40 percent owned by Bear Stearns. Through the help of the credit rating agencies – Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service – bundled securities could be created for companies so that they got a highly-desirable AAA investment rating. The failure of such complex financial instruments, because of their inherently deceptive ratings, led to the collapse of Bear Stearns in March 2008 and set in motion the financial panic of 2007–2008 and the Great Recession.
Epstein invested $80 million between 2002 and 2005, in the D.B. Zwirn Special Opportunities hedge fund. In November 2006, Epstein, while under federal investigation for sex crimes, tried to redeem his investment after he learned of accounting irregularities in the fund. By this time, his investment had grown to $140 million. Zwirn refused to redeem the investment. Zwirn worried that Epstein's redemption could cause a "run on the bank" at the hedge fund. It's not known how much Epstein personally lost when the fund was wound down in 2008.
In August 2006, Epstein, a month after the federal investigation of him began, invested $57 million in the Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage hedge fund. Unfortunately for them it was highly leveraged in mortgage-backed collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).
On April 18, 2007, an investor in the fund, who had $57 million invested, publicly expressed a desire to cash out his investment. At the time, the fund had a leverage ratio of 17:1, which meant that for every one dollar invested in the fund there were seventeen borrowed dollars in it too; therefore, cashing out would have been like removing $1 billion from the thinly traded CDO market. It was a house of cards. The selling of CDO assets to meet the redemptions that month began an explosive repricing process and a general freeze in the CDO market. A collapse of the fund followed three months later in July, which led to the eventual collapse of Bear Stearns in March 2008. It's highly likely Epstein lost most of this investment, but it's not known how much money he actually lost.
By the time the Bear Stearns fund began to fail in May 2007, Epstein was in negotiations on a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office concerning imminent charges for sex with minors. In August 2007, a month after the fund collapsed, the U.S. attorney in Miami, Alexander Acosta, was in direct discussions about the plea agreement. Acosta brokered an easy deal, according to him, because he'd been ordered to do so by higher-ups, who told him that Epstein was an individual of importance to the government. As part of the agreement, Epstein provided "unspecified information" to Florida federal prosecutors in exchange for a more lenient sentence and was supposedly an unnamed key witness for New York federal prosecutors in their unsuccessful June 2008 criminal case against the two managers of the failed Bear Stearns hedge fund. Alan Dershowitz, one of Epstein's Florida attorneys on the case, told Fox Business Network "We would have been touting that if he had [actually provided information]. The idea that Epstein helped in any prosecution is news to me."
In 2015, Epstein invested in the startup Report Homeland Security (renamed Carbyne in 2018), which is connected with Israel's defense industry. It is headed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who at one time was Israel's defense minister, and chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Epstein had past experience with Israel's research and military sector. In April 2008, he went to Israel and met with a number of research scientists and visited different military bases. While there he considered staying in Israel to avoid trial, and possible jail, on the statutory rape charges he was facing in the U.S. but in the end he returned.
Epstein installed concealed cameras in his properties to record sexual activity with underage girls by prominent people. Ghislaine Maxwell, his close companion, told a friend that Epstein's private island in the Virgin Islands was completely wired for video and the friend believed that Maxwell and Epstein were videotaping everyone as an insurance policy. When police raided his Palm Beach residence in 2006 they found two hidden pinhole cameras. His New York mansion was wired extensively with a video surveillance system.
Maria Farmer, who visited the mansion, noted that Epstein showed her a media room on the property where staffers monitored pinhole cameras throughout the house. The media room was accessed through a hidden door. "There were men sitting here. And I looked on the cameras, and I saw toilet, toilet, bed, bed, toilet, bed. It was very obvious that they were, like, monitoring private moments."
Epstein "lent" girls to powerful people to ingratiate himself with them and also to leverage possible blackmail information if it turned out to be needed. According to the Department of Justice, he kept compact discs locked in his safe in his New York mansion with handwritten labels that included the description: "young + ". Epstein partially confirmed this when he told a reporter in 2018, off the record, that he had dirt on powerful people, including information about their sexual proclivities and recreational drug use.
In March 2005, a woman contacted Florida's Palm Beach Police Department and claimed that her 14-year-old stepdaughter had been taken to Epstein's mansion by an older girl. There she was said to have been paid $300 to strip and massage Epstein. She allegedly undressed, but left the encounter wearing her underwear.
Police began a 13-month undercover investigation of Epstein, including a search of his home. The FBI also became involved. Police soon alleged that Epstein had paid several girls to perform sexual acts with him. Interviews with five victims and 17 witnesses under oath, a high-school transcript and other items found in Epstein's trash and home showed that some of the girls were under 18, the youngest being 14, with many under 16. 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 already interviewed.
A former employee told the police that Epstein would receive massages three times a day. Eventually the FBI compiled reports on "34 confirmed minors" eligible for restitution (later increased to 40) whose allegations of sexual abuse by Epstein included corroborating details. A 2018 exposé in the Miami Herald identified some 80 victims and located about 60 of them. Miami police chief Michael Reiter said, "This was 50-something 'shes' and one 'he' — and the 'shes' all basically told the same story." Among the anecdotes is the story of the 12-year-old triplets who were flown in from France for Epstein's birthday, and flown back the next day, after being sexually abused by the financier. Young girls were recruited from Brazil and other South American countries, former Soviet countries, and Europe, and that Jean Luc Brunel's "MC2" modeling agency was also supplying girls to Epstein.
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 count of sexual abuse.
Epstein's defense lawyers included Roy Black, Gerald Lefcourt, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, and former U. S. Solicitor General Ken Starr.
After press reports that Epstein would be charged with only one count of aggravated assault with no intent to commit a felony, Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter accused the Palm Beach County state prosecutor, Barry Krischer, of being too lenient and was instrumental in bringing in the FBI. Instead, Krischer convened a Palm Beach County grand jury, which was usually only done in capital cases. Presented evidence from only two victims, the grand jury returned a single charge of felony solicitation of prostitution, to which Epstein pleaded not guilty in August 2006.
In July 2006, the FBI began its own investigation of Epstein, nicknamed "Operation Leap Year". It led to a 53-page indictment in June 2007 that no grand jury ever saw. Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, agreed to a plea deal, which Alan Dershowitz helped to negotiate, to grant immunity from all federal criminal charges to Epstein, along with four named co-conspirators and any unnamed "potential co-conspirators". 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". The investigation was stopped in its tracks.
Acosta later said he offered a lenient plea deal because he was told that Epstein "belonged to intelligence", was "above his pay grade" and to "leave it alone". Epstein agreed to plead guilty in Florida state court to two felony prostitution charges, register as a sex offender, and pay restitution to three dozen victims. It was later described as a "sweetheart deal".
A federal judge later found that prosecutors had violated the victims' rights in that they had concealed the agreement from the victims and instead urged them to have "patience".
On June 30, 2008, after Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge (one of two) of procuring for prostitution a girl under the age of 18, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. While most convicted sex offenders in Florida are sent to state prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Stockade and, according to the sheriff's office, was allowed after 3½ months to leave the jail on "work release" for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. This ran counter to the sheriff's own much-tougher policies.
Epstein's cell door was left unlocked, and he had access to the attorney room where a TV was installed for him, before he was moved to the Stockade's previously unstaffed infirmary. He worked at the office of a foundation he created shortly before reporting to jail; he dissolved it after he served his time. The Sheriff's Office received $128,000 from Epstein's non-profit to pay for the costs of extra services being provided during his work release. His office was monitored by "permit deputies" whose overtime was paid by Epstein. They were required to wear suits, and checked in "welcomed guests" at the "front desk". Later the Sheriff's Office said these guest logs were destroyed. Epstein was allowed to use his own driver to drive him between jail and his office and other appointments.
Epstein served almost 13 months before being released for a year of probation on house arrest until August 2010. While on probation he took numerous trips on his corporate jet to his residences in Manhattan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was allowed long shopping trips and walks around Palm Beach "for exercise".
After a contested hearing in January 2011, and an appeal, he stayed registered in New York State as a "level three" (high risk of repeat offense) sex offender, a lifelong designation. At that hearing the Manhattan District Attorney argued unsuccessfully that the level should be reduced to a low-risk "level one" and was chided by the judge. Despite opposition from Epstein's lawyer that he had a "main" home in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the judge confirmed he personally must check in with the New York Police Department every 90 days. Though Epstein was a level-three registered sex offender, the New York Police Department never enforced the 90-day regulation, though such non-compliance is supposedly a felony.
The immunity agreement and Epstein's lenient treatment aroused public ire. The Palm Beach police chief accused the state of giving Epstein preferential treatment, and the Miami Herald said U.S. Attorney Acosta gave Epstein "the deal of a lifetime". Following his arrest in July 2019, Acosta resigned as Secretary of Labor.
After the accusations went public, several people and institutions returned Epstein's donations to them, including Eliot Spitzer, Bill Richardson, and the Palm Beach Police Department. Harvard University announced it would not return any money. Various charitable donations that Epstein made to finance children's education were also questioned.
On June 18, 2010, Epstein's former house manager, Alfredo Rodriguez, was convicted on an obstruction charge for failing to turn over to police, and subsequently trying to sell, a journal in which he'd 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."
On February 6, 2008, an anonymous Virginia woman filed a $50 million civil lawsuit in federal court against Epstein, saying that when she was a 16 years old in 2004–05, 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.
A similar $50 million suit was filed in March 2008, by a different woman. These and several similar lawsuits were thrown out of court.
All other lawsuits were settled by Epstein in similar fashion. Epstein made many out-of-court settlements with his victims.
A December 30, 2014, federal civil suit was filed in Florida by Jane Doe 1 (Courtney Wild) and Jane Doe 2 against the U.S. for violations of the Crime Victims' Rights Act. There was a later unsuccessful effort to add Virginia Roberts (Jane Doe 3) and another woman (Jane Doe 4) as plaintiffs to that case. Alan Dershowitz was accused of sexually abusing a minor, Jane Doe 3, provided by Epstein. These were stricken by the judge and eliminated from the case for technical reasons. 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".
In January 2015, Virginia Roberts (now Virginia Giuffre), alleged that when she was 17 she had been held as a sex slave by Epstein, and that he and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell had trafficked her to several people, including Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz. Roberts also claimed that Epstein, Maxwell and others had physically and sexually abused her. Roberts further claimed that the FBI may have been involved in a cover-up. She said she'd served as Epstein's sex slave from 1999 to 2002, and had recruited other underage girls. Prince Andrew, Epstein, and Dershowitz have all denied having had sex with Roberts. Dershowitz took legal action over the allegations. Roberts filed a defamation suit against Dershowitz, claiming he purposefully made "false and malicious defamatory statements" about her. A diary supposedly belonging to Roberts was published online. Epstein entered an out-of-court settlement with Roberts, as he'd done in several other lawsuits.
As a result of Giuffre's allegations and Maxwell's public response to them, Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation in September 2015. The case was settled privately in May 2017.
The Second Circuit Court ordered sensitive documents in the Giuffre v. Maxwell case to be unsealed (after having them redacted to protect innocent parties). In Giuffre's testimony, she claims that she was directed by Maxwell to give erotic massages and engage in sexual activities with Prince Andrew; Jean-Luc Brunel; Glenn Dubin; Marvin Minsky; Governor Bill Richardson; another unnamed prince; an unnamed foreign president; "a well known Prime Minister"; and an unnamed hotel chain owner from France, among others that she could not name. As of August 2019, none of these men has been indicted or sued for related sex crimes, and the deposition does not say which of these men (if any) in fact engaged with Giuffre. Giuffre testified, "my whole life revolved around just pleasing these men and keeping Ghislaine and Jeffrey happy. Their whole entire lives revolved around sex."
On August 9, less than 24 hours before Epstein's death, 2,000 pages of previously sealed documents from the case were released. Two sets of additional sealed documents will be analyzed by a federal judge to determine whether they should also be made public. A "John Doe" asked the judge on September 3 to permanently keep the documents secret, claiming "unproven allegations of impropriety" could damage his reputation, though he had no evidence his name was included.
A federal lawsuit filed in California in April 2016, against Epstein and Donald Trump by a California woman alleged that the two men sexually assaulted her at a series of parties at Epstein's Manhattan mansion 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.
In 2017, Sarah Ransome filed a suit against Epstein and Maxwell, alleging that Maxwell had hired her to give massages to Epstein and later threatened to physically harm her or destroy her career prospects if she did not comply with their sexual demands at his New York mansion and on his private Caribbean island, Little Saint James. The suit was settled in 2018 under undisclosed terms.
A state civil lawsuit in Florida filed by attorney Bradley Edwards against Epstein was scheduled for trial in December 2018. The trial was expected to give victims their first chance to make public accusations. It was settled on the first day of the trial, with Epstein apologizing to Edwards; other settlement terms were confidential.
On April 16, 2019, a new accuser, Maria Farmer, went public and filed a sworn affidavit in federal court in New York, alleging that she and her 15-year-old sister, Anne, had been sexually assaulted by Epstein and Maxwell in separate locations in 1996. According to the affidavit, Farmer had met Epstein and Maxwell at a New York City art gallery reception in 1995. The following year, they hired her to work on an art project in Leslie Wexner's Ohio mansion, where she was then sexually assaulted. Farmer reported the incident to New York City police and the FBI.
Farmer's affidavit also stated that during the same summer, Epstein flew her then-15-year-old sister to his New Mexico property, where he and Maxwell sexually abused her on a massage table.
On July 22, 2019, while in jail awaiting trial, Epstein was served with a petition regarding a pending state civil lawsuit filed by Jennifer Araoz, who says Epstein raped her in his New York City mansion when she was 15. As of August 14, 2019, adult survivors of child sexual abuse will have one year from that date to sue for offenses in New York State, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.
Three women sued the estate of Jeffrey Epstein on August 20, 2019. Two of them were 17 and one was 20 when they met Epstein. They allege that they were recruited, subjected to unwanted sex acts, and controlled by Epstein and a "vast enterprise" of co-conspirators.
A New York accuser of Epstein, known only as Jane Doe, announced a federal lawsuit against his estate on September 18, 2019, stating that she was recruited in 2002 and sexually abused by Epstein for three years starting at age 14.
Five women, represented by David Boies, sued Epstein’s estate in Federal District Court in Manhattan in November 2019, accusing him of rape, battery and false imprisonment and seeking unspecified damages.
On November 18, 2019, a woman identified as Jane Doe 15 made a public appearance with attorney Gloria Allred to announce that she was suing the estate of Jeffrey Epstein in the District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that he manipulated, trafficked, and sexually abused her in 2004, when she was 15 years old.
On November 21, 2019, Teala Davies appeared with her attorney Gloria Allred and announced her lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against Epstein's estate. Davies stated that after meeting Epstein in 2002, he sexually assaulted and trafficked her in New York, New Mexico, Florida, the Virgin Islands and France.
On July 6, 2019, Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on sex trafficking charges. He was jailed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, which has held such well-known prisoners as John Gotti, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and Paul Manafort.
According to witnesses, about a dozen FBI agents forced open the door to Epstein's Manhattan townhouse with search warrants. The search 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, CDs were found with handwritten labels including the descriptions: "Young + ", "Misc nudes 1", and "Girl pics nude". Also found in the safe were $70,000 in cash, 48 diamonds, and a fraudulent Austrian passport, which expired in 1987, that included Epstein's photo with a different name. The passport had numerous entrance and exit stamps, revealing that it had been used to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. Epstein's place of residence was listed as Saudi Arabia. According to his attorneys, Epstein had been advised to acquire the passport because "as an affluent member of the Jewish faith", he was in danger of being kidnapped while traveling abroad.
On July 8, 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. The grand jury indictment alleged that "dozens" of underage girls were brought into Epstein's mansions for sexual encounters.
Epstein's lawyers urged the court to allow Epstein to post bail, offering to post up to a $600 million bond (including $100 million from his brother) so he could leave jail and submit to house arrest in his New York City mansion. The request was denied on the grounds that Epstein posed a danger to the public and was a serious flight risk to avoid prosecution.
On July 23, Epstein was found injured and semiconscious at 1:30 a.m. on the floor of his cell, with marks around his neck that were suspected to be the result of either a suicide attempt or an assault. His cellmate, former New York City police officer Nicholas Tartaglione, who is charged with four counts of murder, was questioned. He denied any knowledge of what happened. Epstein himself said he remembered nothing. According to NBC News, two sources said that Epstein might have tried to hang himself, a third said the injuries were not serious and could have been staged, and a fourth source said that an assault by Tartaglione had not been ruled out.
On August 29, 2019, ten days after Epstein's death, the case against him was closed by Judge Berman, though the judge also expressed support for Epstein's accusers. Prosecutors objected, and signaled they would continue to look for potential co-conspirators.
On August 23, 2019, the prosecutor's office in Paris, France opened an investigation into Epstein for the rape and sexual assault of minors under and over the age of 15, criminal association with a view to committing crimes, and association with criminals with a view to committing offenses. The prosecutors said that the goal of the investigation was to find possible crimes committed in France and elsewhere against French citizens.
Previous long-term girlfriends linked to Epstein include Eva Andersson-Dubin and publishing heiress Ghislaine Maxwell. Epstein was romantically involved with Andersson-Dubin in the 1980s. Epstein met Ghislaine Maxwell, the youngest daughter of disgraced media baron Robert Maxwell, in 1991. Epstein had Maxwell come to the United States in 1991 following the death of her father. Maxwell was implicated by several of Epstein's accusers as procuring or recruiting underage girls in addition to once being Epstein's lover. In a 2009 deposition, several of Epstein's household employees testified that Maxwell played a central role in both his public and private life, referring to her as his "main girlfriend" who also handled the hiring, supervising, and firing of staff starting around 1992.
In 1995, Epstein renamed one of his companies the Ghislaine Corporation in Palm Beach, Florida; the company was dissolved in 1998. In 2000, Maxwell moved into a 7,000-square-foot townhouse not far from Epstein's New York mansion. It was purchased for $4.95 million by an anonymous limited liability company, with an address that matches the office of J. Epstein & Co. Representing the buyer was Darren Indyke, Epstein's longtime lawyer. In a 2003 Vanity Fair story, Epstein referred to Maxwell as "my best friend".
Epstein was a longtime acquaintance of Prince Andrew, and attended parties with many prominent people, including Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump, Katie Couric, Woody Allen, and Harvey Weinstein. His contacts included Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Michael Jackson, Alec Baldwin, the Kennedys, Rockefellers and Rothschilds. His contacts also included Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, British prime minister Tony Blair, and Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Epstein owned a private Boeing 727 jet, nicknamed the "Lolita Express", and traveled in it often, logging "600 flying hours a year ... usually with guests on board". The jet got its nickname from the locals in the Virgin Islands, who noticed its frequent arrivals with underage teenage girls to Little Saint James. "Lolita" is also the title of a classic novel by Vladimir Nabokov, which tells the story of an older man's romantic infatuation with a teenage girl (it was also made into a film of the same name by Stanley Kubrick, starring Peter Sellers). In 2003, Epstein flew to Cuba aboard his plane with Colombian president Andrés Pastrana Arango at the invitation of Cuban president Fidel Castro. According to some, Epstein was likely considering relocating to Cuba in order to escape U.S. law enforcement, as he was under investigation at the time.
In 2009, Epstein's brother Mark claimed Donald Trump had flown on Epstein's plane at least once. He later told The Washington Post that Trump flew "numerous times" on Epstein's airplane, although Mark was only present on one of the flights. In September 2002, Epstein flew Clinton, Kevin Spacey, and Chris Tucker to Africa in this jet. Flight records obtained in 2016 show Bill Clinton flew 27 times to at least a dozen international locations. Flight logs did not list any Secret Service detail for at least five flights, all in Asia, and Secret Service stated that there is no evidence of the former President making a trip to Epstein's private island. In 2019, a Clinton spokesperson stated that, in 2002 and 2003, Clinton took four trips on Epstein's airplane, making stops on three continents, all with his staff and Secret Service detail. At the time of Epstein's 2019 arrest, Clinton's spokeswoman Angel Ureña stated that Clinton had "not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein's ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida."
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." In July 2019, Trump said "I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him," stating four times he had not been "a fan" of Epstein and that he had not spoken to him in about fifteen years. A video shot in 1992 surfaced showing the two men partying together at Mar-a-Lago. By 2007, Trump reportedly banned Epstein from his Mar-a-Lago club. The ban allegation was included in court documents filed by attorney Bradley Edwards, although Edwards later said it was a rumor he couldn't confirm.
Bill Clinton praised 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.
Epstein visited the Clinton White House at least four times. In 1993, he went to a White House donor event with Ghislaine Maxwell. Around the same time, he also met with Clinton's aide Mark Middleton on at least three occasions, also at the White House. In 1995, Epstein also attended a small political fundraiser dinner for Clinton which included 14 other notables such as Ron Perelman, Don Johnson, and Jimmy Buffett.
From the 1990s to the mid-2000s, Epstein often socialized with Donald Trump. Author Michael Wolff wrote that Trump and Epstein were at the time like a "set of nightlife musketeers" on the social scene. Epstein and Trump socialized both in New York City and Palm Beach, where they both had houses. 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 was there. According to The Washington Post, one person who knew Epstein and Trump during this time noted that "they were tight". In November 2004, Epstein and Trump's friendship hit the skids when they became embroiled in a bidding war for a $40 million mansion, Maison de L'Amitie, which was being auctioned in Palm Beach. Trump won the auction for $41 million, and successfully sold the property four years later for $95 million to a Russian billionaire. That was the last time Epstein and Trump saw each other.
The exact origins of Epstein's wealth are unknown. His billionaire mentor Leslie Wexner is one source of Epstein's original wealth. But an assistant of Epstein says he got his fortune started through Robert Maxwell, the media mogul father of Ghislaine Maxwell.
When Epstein pled guilty in 2008 to soliciting and procuring prostitution, his lawyers claimed he had a net worth of over a billion dollars. A number of sources, however, question that. 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 Wexner, "deserted him" following his pleading guilty to prostitution charges in 2008. New York magazine claimed that "there's scant proof" of Epstein's "financial bona fides", and Forbes also ran an article headlined "Why sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is not a billionaire".
Spencer Kuvin, an attorney for three of Epstein's victims, said 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." An investigation by the Miami Herald of the Swiss Leaks documents found that Epstein had multiple financial accounts with millions of dollars in offshore tax havens. In the Paradise Papers, records showed that Epstein in February 1997, became a client of Appleby, a Bermuda-based law firm which specialized in the creation of offshore companies and investment vehicles for the ultra-wealthy. A client profile of Epstein described his job cryptically as the "Manager of Fortune".
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. According to Bloomberg News, "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." The Miami Herald in their investigation of the Paradise Papers and Swiss Leaks documents concluded that Epstein's wealth is probably scattered secretly across the globe.
Epstein owned a mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. It was originally purchased for $13.2 million in 1989 by Les Wexner, who renovated it completely. Epstein took possession in 1998 and paid Wexner $20 million. The mansion is reputedly the largest private house in Manhattan at 21,000 sq. ft. Hidden under a flight of stairs was a lead-lined bathroom fitted with its own closed-circuit television screens and a telephone, both concealed in a cabinet under the sink. It also had its own heated sidewalk to melt away snow. The entrance hall was lined with rows of individually framed prosthetic eyeballs which were made for injured English soldiers.
The financier's other properties included:
- A residence in Palm Beach, Florida, purchased in 1990.
- Seven units in an apartment building near the Arc de Triomphe at 22 Avenue Foch in Paris, France.
- a 7,500-acre (30 km2) ranch named Zorro Ranch near Stanley, New Mexico, purchased in 1993.
- a private island near Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands called Little Saint James, which includes a mansion and guest houses, purchased in 1998.
- The neighboring island of Great Saint James, purchased in 2016.
Epstein was building a compound on the latter including an amphitheater and "underwater office and pool" but ran into problems when a stop-work order was issued in late 2018; work continued despite the order.
Prior to his Manhattan mansion, Epstein's living arrangements included:
- A large townhouse, which was a former Iranian government building that had been taken over by the State Department during the Iranian revolution, at 34 East 69th Street for a rate of $15,000 a month from 1992 to 1995.
- A mansion outside Columbus, Ohio, near Wexner's home from 1992 to 1998 which he purchased from Wexner.
Epstein rented business offices in the Villard House at 457 Madison Avenue. Steven Hoffenberg originally set them up for Epstein in 1987 when he was consulting for Tower Financial. Epstein used them until at least 2003. Around this time, Michael Wolff saw the financier there and noted that they were a strange place which did not have a corporate feel at all. "[They were] almost European. It's old—old-fashioned, unrehabbed in its way... the trading floor is filled with guys in yarmulkes. Who they are, I have no idea. They're like a throwback, a bunch of guys from the fifties. So here is Jeffrey in this incredibly beautiful office, with pieces of art and a view of the courtyard, and he seems like the most relaxed guy in the world. You want to say 'What's going on here?' and he gives you that Cheshire smile."
Starting in the 1990s, Epstein rented multiple apartments for his employees, models, and guests at 301 East 66th Street. Most of the apartment complex at this address was owned by Ossa properties, which was owned by Jeffrey Epstein's brother Mark, who bought it from Wexner. Over the years Epstein housed different friends at 11 East 71st Street, including ex-girlfriend Eva Andersson, who was married to his hedge-fund friend Glenn Dubin, MC2 Models founder Jean-Luc Brunel, and on occasions former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He housed some of his workers, including his pilot, housekeeper and office work staff, in the apartment complex. Epstein also housed underage girls, who Brunel scouted for his MC2 modeling agency. On August 6, 2012, a model and party promoter associated with MC2, Pedro Gaspar, who lived above another of the modeling agency's digs in Manhattan, died from what some consider to be a suspicious drug overdose.
From 1989 to 2003, Epstein donated more than $139,000 to Democratic Party federal candidates and committees and over $18,000 to Republican Party candidates and groups.
Epstein contributed $50,000 to Democrat Bill Richardson's successful campaign for Governor of New Mexico in 2002 and again for his successful run for reelection in 2006. That same year, he contributed $15,000 to Democrat Gary King's successful campaign for Attorney General of New Mexico. He later contributed $35,000 to King's unsuccessful 2014 campaign for Governor. Other contributions in New Mexico included $10,000 toward Jim Baca's campaign to become head of the land commission, and $2,000 toward Santa Fe County Sheriff Jim Solano's bid for reelection.
In 1991, Epstein was one of four donors who pledged to raise $2 million for a new student building at Harvard. In 2000, he established the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, to fund scientific research and education. In May 2003, he pledged a series of donations totaling $30 million to create a mathematical biology and evolutionary dynamics program at Harvard, though the actual amount received from Epstein was $6.5 million. In 2019, Forbes deleted a 2013 article that called Epstein "one of the largest backers of cutting edge science" after The New York Times revealed its author, Drew Hendricks, had been paid $600 to submit it falsely as his own.
According to attorney Gerald B. Lefcourt, Epstein was "part of the original group that conceived of the Clinton Global Initiative". Epstein co-organized a science event with illusionist and skeptic Al Seckel called the Mindshift Conference, which was held in 2010 on Epstein's private island Little Saint James.
The true extent of Epstein's donations is unknown. The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation does not disclose information which other charities routinely do. In 2015, the New York State Attorney General tried to look into it but was rebuffed since the Epstein charities were based outside the state and did not solicit in New York State. Epstein, besides making donations through the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, also made several charitable donations through his three private charities: Epstein Interest, the COUQ Foundation, and Gratitude American Ltd. According to federal tax filings he donated $30 million between 1998 and 2018. Following his death, a number of scientists and institutions (notably Harvard) came under fire for taking his money.
Beginning in the early 2000s, Jeffrey Epstein showed a strong interest in improving the human race through genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, and doing so by using his own sperm. He addressed the scientific community at various events and spoke of his fascination with eugenics. He had plans to "seed the human race with his DNA" by impregnating up to 20 women at a time using his New Mexico compound as a "baby ranch", where mothers would give birth to his offspring. He was an advocate of cryonics and his own distinctive brand of transhumanism, and said he intended to have his penis and head frozen for posterity.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania said: "Scientists need funding for important work... if the funding is for legitimate scientific work, there is nothing wrong with accepting support from a billionaire. However it would have been wrong for scientists to accept his funding if they were aware that he was planning a eugenics experiment that might draw legitimacy from his association with them."
Geneticist George Church publicly apologized for meeting Epstein after his 13-month sentence, saying "There should have been more conversations about, should we be doing this, should we be helping this guy? There was just a lot of nerd tunnel vision."
On August 10, 2019, Jeffrey Epstein was found unresponsive in his jail cell. According to an official FBI statement, "He was transported to a local hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff."
Both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice's inspector general are conducting investigations into the circumstances of his death. The guards on duty were later charged with conspiracy and record falsification. Epstein's death shifted the focus of the ongoing sex-trafficking investigations towards his associates.
The jail informed the Justice Department, when Epstein was placed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU), that he would have a cellmate, and that a guard would look into the cell every 30 minutes. None of these procedures were followed the night he died. On August 9, Epstein's cellmate was transferred out, and no replacement was brought in. The evening of his death, Epstein visited with his lawyers, who described him as "upbeat" before being escorted back to the SHU at 7:49 PM by guard Tova Noel. Video footage shows that the two guards failed to perform the required institutional count at 10 PM. Internal evidence shows Noel briefly walking by Epstein's cell at 10:30 PM, the last time the guards entered the tier his cell was located on. Throughout the night, in violation of the jail's normal procedure, Epstein was not checked every 30 minutes. The two guards assigned to monitor his cell fell asleep at their desk for about three hours and later falsified records. Two cameras in front of Epstein's cell also supposedly malfunctioned. A third camera nearby had footage which was "unusable."
As the guards were distributing breakfast around 6:30 AM, Epstein was found unresponsive in cardiac arrest in his cell, in a kneeling position with a strip of bedsheet wrapped around his neck. The sheet was tied to the top of his bunk. He was thought to have been dead for about two hours. No photos of his body were taken in his cell. The guards performed CPR on him, and witnesses overheard them saying "Breathe, Epstein, breathe." At 6:33 AM, the alarm was pulled and a supervisor arrived, to whom Noel said, "Epstein hung himself." He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. News of his death was posted on the web-based 4chan bulletin board 38 minutes before ABC News broke the story, probably by a first-responder.
Epstein's death was the first suicide at the MCC in 14 years. Observers immediately questioned whether Epstein, who was 6 feet tall and weighed 185 pounds, could have hung himself from the lower bunk. Post-mortem photos show bottles and medicine standing upright on the top bunk. A former MCC inmate described the sheets there as "paper level, not strong enough" to support Epstein's body. Some have questioned why Epstein didn't use other materials available in the cell as a ligature, such as wires and tubing from a sleep apnea machine, which were stronger and longer. A note was also found in the cell, written by Epstein in ball-point pen, despite the fact that no prisoners were supposed to have pens under jail protocol.
Following an autopsy, Epstein's body was claimed by his brother Mark. On September 5, Epstein was buried in an unmarked grave next to the bodies of his parents at the IJ Morris Star of David cemetery in Palm Beach, Florida. The names of his parents were also removed from their tombstone to prevent vandalism.
The autopsy on Epstein's body was conducted on August 11 by New York City's Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson. Epstein's lawyers sent pathologist Michael Baden to personally monitor the city's autopsy. Afterward, the medical examiner's office reported that Epstein had hanged himself with a sheet from his bed.
On August 14, unofficial sources revealed that broken bones were found in Epstein's neck, although this can happen in the suicides of elderly people. Broken bones in the neck are said to be "more common in victims of homicide by strangulation", but studies have found different percentages for both kinds of death.
Epstein's lawyers countered with a joint statement challenging the Medical Examiner's conclusions and saying that a more complete rebuttal would soon follow. They also promised that the defense team would continue its own investigation into the cause of Epstein's death, including taking legal action, if necessary, to obtain the video footage from the camera near his cell.
On August 16, 2019, Medical Examiner Sampson announced that Epstein's death had officially been ruled a suicide by hanging. Epstein's lawyers reiterated their public rejection of the ruling.
On October 30, 2019, Michael Baden issued a report in which he said that Epstein's neck injuries were much more consistent with "homicidal strangulation" than suicide. He wrote that Epstein "had two fractures on the left and right sides of his larynx, specifically the thyroid cartilage or Adam's apple, as well as one fracture on the left hyoid bone above the Adam's apple". In particular, the hyoid bone, which is rarely broken in suicidal hangings, was broken in a way indicative of strangulation from behind. Baden later said, "Going over a thousand jail hangings, [and] suicides in the New York City state prisons over the past 40-50 years, no one had three fractures." Epstein's neck wound was in the center of his neck, not under his mandibles as in a typical hanging. Baden points to this as being more common when a victim is strangled by a wire or cord. Baden also observed that the wound is much thinner than the strip of bedsheet was, and although there was blood on Epstein's neck, it was absent on the bed-sheet ligature. According to the autopsy files, Epstein also had contusions on both of his wrists, an abrasion on his left forearm, and deep muscle hemorrhaging of his left deltoid or shoulder. His brother Mark later suggested that he was "handcuffed and struggled." Epstein also had hemorrhages in his eyes, which although not unheard of in hangings, are more common in strangulations.
Between the violations of prison procedures, and Epstein's knowledge of compromising information about famous and powerful people, his death by "apparent suicide" has understandably touched off waves of disbelief – and conspiracy theories. According to a Rasmussen poll in August 2019, just 29% of U.S. adults believed Epstein actually killed himself, while 42% thought he was murdered to prevent him from testifying (29% of people were undecided). By November, a Business Insider poll found that those who believed Epstein was murdered outnumbered suicide proponents three to one.
Even before Epstein's death, people openly predicted his untimely death in prison. In a July 27 interview, Bob Fitrakis — a longtime investigator of Epstein — said he thought it was "likely" Epstein would be "killed in prison". Spencer Kuvin, a lawyer representing three of his victims, said in a July 2019 interview after Epstein's first suicide attempt that he believed it was actually an attack on his life, and that there was a high probability he would be murdered in prison.
In the hours after Epstein's death, the hashtag #ClintonBodyCount was trending on Twitter. President Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory by Terrence K. Williams, a conservative comedian, suggesting there was a connection between the Clintons and Epstein's death, adding more fuel to the conspiracy fires.
At an August 27 court hearing, Epstein defense attorney Reid Weingarten voiced "significant doubts" that Epstein's death was a suicide. When Epstein's attorneys met with their client shortly before his death, they "did not see a despairing, despondent, suicidal person". Epstein's brother Mark rejected the possibility of suicide: “I could see if he got a life sentence, I could then see him taking himself out, but he had a bail hearing coming up." He also claimed that his own "life may also be in danger," if Epstein was indeed murdered. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and podcast host Joe Rogan expressed similar doubts about Epstein's death. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad asserted that "American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was killed several weeks ago – they said he had committed suicide in jail. However, he was killed because he knew a lot of vital secrets connected with very important people in the British and American regimes." The father of Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein's most outspoken victims, stated that "It had to be somebody from above that came and took him out."
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