When Maria Farmer worked for Jeffrey Epstein in 1996, she saw girls in school uniforms visit the financier’s Manhattan townhouse, and encountered binders with photographs of teens and young women at his mansion in Palm Beach.
At the time, Farmer told The Daily Beast, Epstein’s then-girlfriend and accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell claimed these young visitors and photographs were related to “modeling” jobs for Limited Brands, owned by Epstein’s billionaire client Les Wexner.
But Farmer’s suspicions about her employer turned into a living nightmare after Epstein and Maxwell allegedly assaulted her in Ohio, where she spent the summer working on an art project at Wexner’s estate. Wexner’s security guards, she says, held her against her will for hours after she tried to flee the premises.
When she returned to New York, Farmer filed reports with the NYPD and FBI, which both ultimately shrugged off her warnings about Epstein and Maxwell.
Now, nearly 27 years later, Farmer is demanding that the FBI examine why it failed to investigate her complaints about Epstein—similar to how the agency probed its errors in other crimes including the Parkland, Florida, school shooting and Larry Nassar’s sex abuse.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for Farmer sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz demanding an inquiry into the FBI’s “failure to seriously investigate” Epstein and Maxwell.
The 15-page document, reviewed by The Daily Beast, raises questions about why the feds seem to have given Epstein a “hall pass” for one of the largest sex-trafficking and child sex abuse material (CSAM) conspiracies in recent memory.
“As counsel to many survivors of the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking conspiracy, we write regarding the failure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to properly, adequately, or timely investigate the sex trafficking of hundreds of girls and young women,” wrote Jennifer Freeman, senior counsel at the Marsh Law Firm. “The FBI utterly failed to investigate serious allegations involving Epstein’s, and perhaps others’, child sex abuse materials (CSAM), significant additional criminality which, until recently, has been disregarded, disrespected, and essentially denied.”
Freeman, whose firm also represents Sarah Ransome, another victim of Epstein and Maxwell, wrote that the FBI, Justice Department, and Attorney General must “conduct a comprehensive investigation to determine why there was and remains such abject failure to timely investigate, expose, and prosecute this unprecedented, decades-long criminal conspiracy.”
“For many years, the public has been asking for a reckoning by the FBI and the United States government for its clear dereliction of duty to serve and protect the American people against the Epstein sex trafficking conspiracy,” wrote Freeman, adding, “However, we are aware of no investigation of the FBI and certainly no public disclosure or explanation.”
“Epstein and Maxwell’s victims, and the public at large, are owed a full accounting of the FBI’s many failures and missed opportunities. The American people, the victims, and the survivors deserve the truth.”
The letter arrives amid a years-long battle to hold Epstein’s powerful enablers accountable for his crimes. Billionaire philanthropists, multinational banks and their executives, academics, and other elites who associated with Epstein have found themselves under the microscope in the wake of his 2019 arrest and death in a federal lockup in New York.
Since then, more than three dozen accusers have brought lawsuits against his estate, and a victim compensation fund paid about $121 million to 150 of his victims. By the end of 2021, Manhattan federal prosecutors also secured Maxwell’s conviction for child sex trafficking. Last summer, Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years behind bars and is serving time at the low-security FCI Tallahassee in Florida.
Now a trio of lawsuits against JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank are revealing how banking executives apparently knew of accusations that Epstein trafficked women and girls but continued to provide the financial infrastructure for his international sex ring.
The U.S. Virgin Islands government and a victim referred to as Jane Doe 1 have both filed complaints accusing JPMorgan of participating in Epstein’s illegal venture. “JP Morgan knew that it was providing the financial lifeblood for Epstein’s international sex-trafficking organization from 1998 through August 2013,” Doe’s lawsuit says, adding that the bank’s “crucial financial support allowed Epstein to successfully rape, sexually assault, and coercively sex traffic Jane Doe 1” and numerous other women.
On Friday, lawyers for Doe and another victim suing Deutsche Bank submitted legal memorandums asking a federal judge to grant their cases class-action status, indicating more than 100 victims could join the litigation based on the banks’ own financial records.
Meanwhile, these legal proceedings have possibly uncovered new photos and video evidence related to Epstein’s victims. In response to a subpoena from Doe, counsel for the Epstein estate notified her lawyers “that it had located materials” and was concerned some of it “might contain child sex abuse imagery (CSAM),” according to an April court filing.
As a result, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff signed an order directing the Epstein estate to review the materials and to notify the FBI if a recording “appears to contain possible CSAM.”
Farmer says that she’d warned the FBI about Epstein’s graphic images nearly three decades ago when she contacted them about his sexual abuse.
Freeman’s letter states Farmer “reported to the FBI that Epstein, and perhaps others, appeared to be engaged in the production, possession, and distribution of sexually suggestive or exploitative images of children that could constitute CSAM.”
It adds that, “in response to Ms. Farmer’s clear-eyed, prescient report, and despite subsequent repeated red flags that Epstein trafficked girls and collected sexualized images of children, the FBI appears, for years, to have done little to investigate and prosecute Epstein’s sex trafficking, and, to date, done nothing regarding reports of possible CSAM.”
The letter suggests that Epstein may have had a “special relationship” with the government that led to the FBI’s refusal to target him and high-profile men in his orbit.
“It’s paramount that people know about these systemic failures within our government,” Farmer told The Daily Beast, adding that she believes that the agency favored “wealth and power” over American children. “I want to see those girls, those women [victimized by Epstein] brought justice before I die. That’s my main goal.”
The FBI declined to comment.
Farmer, an artist and recent graduate of the New York Academy of Art, was likely the first victim of Epstein’s to contact police.
As The Daily Beast has reported, after the financier and Maxwell assaulted Farmer, she would soon learn that they tried to groom her younger sister, Annie, during a visit to his New Mexico compound. (At Maxwell’s trial, Annie testified that she was 16 when Maxwell groped her chest during a massage at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch, and that Epstein had entered her room, announced he wanted to cuddle with her, and pressed his body against her.)
Freeman’s letter notes that Farmer also believed that Epstein and Maxwell had snatched some photographs of her younger sisters, one of whom was 11 years old and “partially dressed,” from her collection during her stay at Wexner’s property. Farmer told us those images were for an art series on adolescence. “They were not sexual,” she said.
When Farmer confronted Epstein and Maxwell about their activities, they allegedly threatened her safety and warned they’d light her artwork on fire.
Farmer reported the duo to the NYPD’s Sixth Precinct, which took a report on the alleged fire threats but directed her to bring her claims of sex abuse to the FBI, the letter says. A 1996 police report reviewed by The Daily Beast shows that Farmer told cops that Epstein “stated he was going to [her] painting and send her polaroids” of the damage.
“The FBI’s repeated and continual failures, delays, and inaction allowed Epstein and others to continue their sex trafficking conspiracy for nearly a quarter of a century,” Freeman wrote. “Unfortunately, Ms. Farmer’s 1996 report regarding Epstein’s sex trafficking and sexually concerning images proved to be spot on.”
“Had law enforcement taken even minimal action to respond to Ms. Farmer’s and others’ 2006, 2008, 2011, and other reports, more sex trafficking and likely CSAM crimes could have been avoided,” Freeman added.
The discovery of video footage and photos in Epstein’s lairs, as well as victims’ claims that he kept hidden cameras throughout his homes, has led to speculation about whether some video was recorded to blackmail rich and powerful friends.
When Palm Beach cops raided Epstein’s Florida mansion in 2005, they discovered nude photographs of teen girls and turned the images over to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office. Before the bust, however, an assistant of Epstein’s removed computers from the residence.
The existence of lewd images made news again in 2019 after the feds arrested Epstein for trafficking dozens of underage girls in New York. At the time, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that a search of his Upper East Side townhouse unearthed “an extraordinary volume of photographs of nude and partially-nude young women or girls.” Some images were found inside a locked safe, on CDs with labels such as “Girl pics nude” and “Misc nudes 1.”
At Maxwell’s criminal trial in late 2021, an FBI agent testified that authorities also discovered boxes of hard drives, mysteriously covered in evidence tape that hadn’t been placed there by police. And when prosecutors showed jurors a video of Palm Beach police’s 2005 walk-through of Epstein’s home, the footage revealed the decor included sexualized photos of underage girls and one photo of Epstein posing with a girl in her underwear.
While the FBI did interview Farmer and other victims in 2006, the case was scuttled by the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office after secret meetings with his high-powered legal team.
Back then, the FBI likely knew that Epstein had illicit recordings of children, according to a 2020 report by the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which examined Epstein’s plea agreement and lack of notification to victims.
The document reveals that then-assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña told OPR that “the FBI had information that Epstein used hidden cameras in his New York residence to record his sexual encounters, and one victim told agents that Epstein’s assistant photographed her in the nude.” Villafaña and other witnesses also told OPR that Epstein’s computers “might have contained child pornography.” OPR’s report noted, “The interstate transmission of child pornography was a separate, and serious, federal crime that could have changed the entire complexion of the case against Epstein.”
In her letter to the FBI, Freeman wrote, “To date, law enforcement still has not seriously pursued possible CSAM crimes involving Epstein. Had law enforcement done their job, the Epstein trafficking and possible CSAM crimes could have been stopped.”
“It’s imperative to hold the FBI responsible for failing to investigate what happened to so many survivors,” Freeman told The Daily Beast in an interview. “Accountability is critical in order to ensure that this never happens again.”
Freeman and Farmer are pushing for a federal investigation into the FBI’s handling of Epstein that could be similar to probes into the agency’s actions with regard to the Parkland shooting, Larry Nassar sex abuse case, and the Charleston Church massacre.
Last year, families for the victims of the 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, reached a $127.5 million settlement with the U.S. government in connection to the FBI’s failure to follow up on a tip about the gunman. A month after the shooting, the FBI released a public statement about its own investigation into the bureau’s lack of response.
In 2021, DOJ Inspector General Horowitz issued a report revealing FBI officials failed to respond to accusations against Nassar, the disgraced USA gymnastics team doctor, leading to the sexual abuse of 70 more young athletes. Months later, the Justice Department settled with families of victims of the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting. After the incident, the FBI published a statement about the lapses in its background check system that led to the white-supremacist gunman’s purchase of a weapon.
“Much like the Parkland, Nassar, and Charleston Church cases, government agencies have a responsibility to investigate and explain why the FBI failed—for a quarter of a century—to properly investigate Ms. Farmer’s and others’ repeated allegations of Epstein’s abuse,” Freeman wrote.
The letter highlights some of Epstein’s prior entanglements with the government and alleged financial misconduct including a “reg d” violation while working at Bear Stearns.
“Curiously, Epstein was known and tied to federal authorities for decades, often in connection with suspicious and illegal activities,” Freeman wrote, referring to his ties to Steven Hoffenberg, a former business partner who in 1995 was convicted in a massive Ponzi scheme, and Epstein’s 1992 rental of a Manhattan townhouse that had been controlled by the State Department.
“There has been rampant speculation for years that Epstein was a confidential informant,” Freeman wrote, adding that “Epstein told colleagues and friends that he was an intelligence asset.”
Indeed, Epstein’s prominent connections continue to be revealed.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that William Burns, now the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, held meetings with Epstein in 2014 when he was deputy secretary of state. Others who hobnobbed with Epstein in recent years include former White House counsel and Goldmach Sachs’ top lawyer Kathryn Ruemmler, linguist Noam Chomsky, and Ariane de Rothschild, the head of a Swiss private bank whom Epstein reportedly asked for help in finding a new female assistant.
A CIA spokeswoman said Burns and Epstein “had no relationship” and had only met him twice, while a Goldman spokesman said Ruemmler never flew on Epstein’s plane or visited his private island and didn’t see anything concerning at his townhouse.
Chomsky told the Journal that he met with Epstein to discuss political or academic topics and at the time, “what was known about Jeffrey Epstein was that he had been convicted of a crime and had served his sentence. According to U.S. laws and norms, that yields a clean slate.”
A spokesperson for de Rothschild’s bank said she was “unaware of any questions regarding his personal conduct” and that “she feels for and supports the victims.”
In 2018, the Miami Herald reported that it obtained documents showing Epstein provided “unspecified information” to the government as part of his 2008 plea deal, and that he was allegedly a key witness in the prosecution of two Bear Stearns executives. (Months later, however, Fox Business cited sources who denied Epstein was such a witness.)
“There is strong circumstantial evidence in the public domain that Epstein’s special relationship with the government explains the FBI’s failure to investigate or prosecute Epstein in 1996, the special treatment he received from 2005 to 2008, and the failure to investigate the possible wrongdoing of important public officials and powerful businessmen,” Freeman wrote.
She isn’t the only one to emphasize the FBI’s apparent decision to overlook Epstein.
In 2020, ABC News reported that a woman who was abused by Epstein in New York—and whose accusations were crucial to his Manhattan indictment—was questioned by the FBI in Florida more than a decade before. Before she could testify to a grand jury, Epstein secretly inked his non-prosecution agreement and the federal investigation died.
“I certainly think with the FBI’s capabilities, even back then, that they could have unraveled the entire network from New York to Paris to New Mexico,” Spencer Kuvin, an attorney who represented three of Epstein’s accusers in Florida, told ABC at the time.
“The potential was always there,” Kuvin added. “[The government] shut this thing down and pled this thing out before going through and talking to probably more than half of the women that were involved in this whole thing. Had they conducted a full investigation and taken their time, this would’ve been a whole different story.”