Editor's note: On August 10, 2019, Jeffrey Epstein died in an apparent jailhouse suicide. For more information, see The Daily Beast's reporting here.
Billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for allegedly sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005, and will appear in court in New York on Monday, according to three law enforcement sources. Epstein, who owns a New York City mansion and an island in the Caribbean, was being held at the federal lockup in Manhattan ahead of his court date.
Saturday’s arrest by the FBI-NYPD Crimes Against Children Task Force comes about 12 years after the 66-year-old financier essentially got a slap on the wrist for allegedly molesting dozens of underage girls in Florida.
For more than a decade, Epstein’s alleged abuse of minors has been the subject of lawsuits brought by victims, investigations by local and federal authorities, and exposés in the press. But despite the attention cast on his alleged sex crimes, the hedge-funder has managed to avoid any meaningful jail time, let alone federal charges.
The new indictment—which, according to two sources, will be unsealed Monday in Manhattan federal court—will reportedly allege that Epstein sexually exploited dozens of underage girls in a now-familiar scheme: paying them cash for “massages” and then molesting or sexually abusing them in his Upper East Side mansion or his palatial residence in Palm Beach. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors—which could put him away for a maximum of 45 years. The case is being handled by the Public Corruption Unit of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from the district's human-trafficking officials and the FBI.
Several of the billionaire's employees and associates allegedly recruited the girls for Epstein's abuse, and some victims eventually became recruiters themselves, according to law enforcement. The girls were as young as 14, and Epstein knew they were underage, according to details of the arrest and indictment shared by two officials.
Epstein's attorney Martin Weinberg declined to comment when reached by The Daily Beast on Saturday night. The SDNY also declined to comment.
“It’s been a long time coming—it’s been too long coming,” said attorney David Boies, who represents Epstein accusers Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome. “It is an important step towards getting justice for the many victims of Mr. Epstein’s sex trafficking enterprise.
“We hope that prosecutors will not stop with Mr. Epstein because there were many other people who participated with him and made the sex trafficking possible," he told The Daily Beast.
In an era where #MeToo has toppled powerful men, Epstein’s name was largely absent from the national conversation, until the Miami Herald published a three-part series on how his wealth, power and influence shielded him from federal prosecution. For years, The Daily Beast has reported on Epstein’s alleged abuse, starting with Conchita Sarnoff's exposes on his easy jail sentence and soft treatment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which ultimately scrapped a 53-page indictment against Epstein. An earlier version of Epstein’s plea deal included a 10-year federal sentence—before his star-studded lawyers threatened to go to trial in a case prosecutors feared was unwinnable, in part because Epstein’s team dredged up dirt on the victims, including social media posts indicating drug use.
Meanwhile, the financier flitted among his homes in Palm Beach, New York City, and the Virgin Islands, as well as his secluded Zorro Ranch in Stanley, New Mexico, transporting young women on his private jet to facilitate the sexual abuse that’s gone unchecked by authorities, his alleged victims say.
In an announcement planned for Monday the FBI is expected to provide a number for other victims to contact the SDNY.
As early as 2003, Vicky Ward’s Vanity Fair profile cracked into Epstein’s enigmatic facade and, as Ward noted, revealed “he was definitely not what he claimed to be.” Back then, allegations of sexual abuse leveled by one accuser, Maria Farmer, and her family were excised from Ward’s piece after Epstein pressured the magazine.
Epstein’s bust comes mere months after a federal judge ruled his 2007 non-prosecution agreement (NPA)—secretly inked under former U.S. Attorney and current Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta—violated federal law by keeping Epstein’s victims in the dark. Under the sweetheart deal, Epstein dodged federal charges that might have sent him to prison for life. He instead pleaded guilty to minor state charges in Palm Beach, and served 13 months in a private wing of a county jail, mostly on work release.
The alleged victims, who sued the government for violating the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, asked the court to rescind Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement and called for the feds to hold him criminally liable. The NPA also granted immunity to Epstein’s co-conspirators, identified in the document as “including but not limited to Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, or Nadia Marcinkova.”
But in June, prosecutors for the government advised the judge to uphold the plea deal, saying that voiding it would “cause unintended harm to many of” the victims and jeopardize monetary settlements that more than a dozen of them received.
"If today’s report is true, it only proves that Epstein should have been charged by federal prosecutors 12 years ago in Florida. With his money, Epstein was able to buy more than a decade of delay in facing justice—but fortunately he wasn’t able to postpone justice forever," said attorney Paul Cassell, who represents multiple victims of Epstein in their lawsuit against the federal government.
"While New York prosecutors are apparently seeking to hold Epstein accountable, the fight will continue to force federal prosecutors in Florida to do the same thing," Cassell added in a statement. "While Epstein was at the head of the international sex trafficking organization, that conspiracy could not have functioned without many others playing their part. Jane Doe 1 and 2 will continue to fight for all of Epstein’s co-conspirators to be held accountable in New York, Florida, and anywhere else they committed crimes."
Epstein reportedly supplied valuable intel to federal investigators in exchange for his lenient plea deal; it’s been speculated this information may have been related to Bear Stearns executives’ alleged crimes in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
According to one Page Six report, Epstein lost $57 million in Bear Stearns’ collapse and was a victim identified as “Major Investor No. 1” in the indictment of hedge-fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tanin. (A federal jury acquitted Cioffi and Tanin of securities fraud charges.) But in March 2019, FOX Business reported that Epstein “did not provide any meaningful cooperation to obtain his relatively light sentence in the hedge fund case or likely any case tied to the financial crisis.” Jack Goldberger, one of Epstein’s attorneys in the Palm Beach sex crimes case, told FOX of the Bear Stearns’ prosecution, “Mr. Epstein was never spoken to by any of the authorities on this subject. He was a very large investor. No more, no less.”
One former federal prosecutor on the Bear Stearns case agreed. “Bottom line, I have no knowledge of Epstein cooperating in any way in the Bear Stearns case. There was no reason to use him,” the ex-prosecutor told FOX.
Once a math teacher at the elite Dalton School, Jeffrey Epstein left for Bear Stearns before starting his own firm, J. Epstein & Co., which supposedly only managed the fortunes of billionaires. Les Wexner, chairman of Limited Brands, is his only known client. (In April 2019, a new accuser came forward with claims that Epstein and his alleged madame, Ghislaine Maxwell, assaulted her at Wexner’s Ohio residence in the 1990s. Epstein, Maxwell and Wexner have not commented on these allegations.)
Epstein’s financial career has always been shrouded in mystery.
Over the years, Epstein billed himself as a renowned philanthropist and in press releases, claimed to pledge $30 million for Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. (According to a Harvard source familiar with the donation, however, Epstein only wrote a check for $6.5 million.) He’s palled around with a host of famous faces including Donald Trump and Bill Clinton; the latter traveled with Epstein to Africa to address issues like economic development and AIDS.
In a 2002 profile in New York, one fellow Wall Streeter described Epstein as a “mysterious, Gatsbyesque figure” who “likes people to think that he is very rich” and “cultivates this air of aloofness.” Another prominent investor added: “He once told me he had 300 people working for him, and I’ve also heard that he manages Rockefeller money. But one never knows. It’s like looking at the Wizard of Oz—there may be less there than meets the eye.”
Vanity Fair’s 2003 take on Epstein compared him to the self-made Jay Gatsby, too. “The trading desks don’t seem to know him. It’s unusual for animals that big not to leave any footprints in the snow,” one insider told the magazine.
During his high-flying finance years, Epstein also allegedly harbored a dark secret: his widespread abuse of underage girls. In 2005, Palm Beach police launched an investigation into Epstein after a 14-year-old girl told police an older man named “Jeff” had molested her at his residence, a two-story pink mansion on a dead-end street.
Authorities would discover a disturbing teen sex ring, where victims were allegedly paid to recruit other young girls to provide “massages” inside Epstein’s lair. The victims would be led to Epstein’s bedroom, and Epstein would enter and order them to remove their clothing, police said. The financier would then assault them—sometimes forcing them into intercourse with him or a young woman he described as his “sex slave”—and pay them $200 to $1,000 per visit, according to court documents.
Police say Epstein’s massages were booked with the help of his personal assistants, including Sarah Kellen, who kept a rolodex of underage girls.
But as The Daily Beast previously reported, the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach declined to pursue serious charges against Epstein (filing only a single felony count of soliciting prostitution), claiming the girls weren’t credible. The local police chief, Michael Reiter, accused prosecutors of giving Epstein special treatment and in 2006 referred the case to the FBI. By May 2007, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami drafted a 53-page indictment against Epstein, alongside an 82-page prosecution memorandum. That summer, however, Epstein’s lawyers worked to unravel the case, claiming Epstein wasn’t guilty of any federal crimes.
Epstein and the feds drew up a non-prosecution agreement in September 2007. Without informing any of the victims, the two sides decided that Epstein would plead guilty to a pair of state charges (solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution) and waive his right to contest damages, if the victims decided to sue him over the abuse. He also agreed to pay for the girls’ attorney’s fees.
Indeed, the NPA stated that “the United States, in consultation with and subject to the good faith approval of Epstein’s counsel, shall select an attorney representative for [the victims], who shall be paid for by Epstein.”
The NPA also granted immunity to any “potential co-conspirator” of Epstein’s and ensured the deal would “not be made part of any public record.”
Epstein could have faced multiple federal charges, the NPA noted, including: sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud or coercion, 18 U.S.C. 1591; the use of a facility or means of interstate commerce to entice minors into prostitution, 18 U.S.C. 2422(b); and traveling for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors, 18 U.S.C. 2423(b). The document states Epstein might have committed those crimes from around 2001 to September 2007.
Other women claim that Epstein’s alleged abuse spanned many years and many locations, according to civil court filings.
In an April 2019 affidavit, a woman named Maria Farmer said she met Epstein and Maxwell sometime in 1995, at one of Farmer’s art shows in New York. In 1996, Epstein offered her a job to help him acquire art. But according to Farmer, she instead ended up manning the door at Epstein’s Upper East Side mansion and keeping records of his visitors.
Some of those visitors, Farmer claimed, were underage girls in school uniforms who would be led to an upstairs bedroom for what Maxwell called interviews for “modeling” positions. Farmer witnessed Epstein’s lawyer and friend, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, head upstairs where the girls were present, the affidavit stated.
Dershowitz has denied Farmer’s accusations. “Maria Farmer stopped working for Epstein before I ever met Epstein,” Dershowitz told The Daily Beast. “It’s a totally perjured affidavit. It’s all totally made up. For her lawyers to submit these obviously perjured affidavits raises serious questions about their role in this case.”
In the summer of 1996, Epstein allegedly arranged for Farmer to work on a special art project at Leslie Wexner’s mansion in New Albany, Ohio. Farmer and her two younger brothers stayed at the property at the time.
Farmer claims Maxwell and Epstein sexually assaulted her at the Ohio property, and Wexner’s security team refused to let her leave. She said she tried calling the sheriff’s office but didn’t get a response. Her father had to drive from Kentucky to help her.
Once she returned to New York, Farmer visited the NYPD’s sixth precinct to report the Ohio assault, but officers there told her to contact the FBI. Farmer called the feds, but they didn’t appear to take any action, the affidavit states.
Meanwhile, Farmer claims Epstein and Maxwell preyed on her 15-year-old sister, molesting her at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico. Epstein also held her sibling’s hand at a New York movie theater, where he “was rubbing her in a sexual manner without my knowledge,” Farmer added.
“I was terrified of Maxwell and Epstein and I moved a number of times to try to hide from them,” Farmer stated of the powerful pair’s alleged threats against her and their alleged efforts to sabotage her reputation in the art world.
Another accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has long claimed that Epstein and Maxwell abused minor girls across the country and abroad, and that Epstein loaned his victims out to his famous friends, including Dershowitz and Prince Andrew.
Giuffre filed a declaration in 2015 as part of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act suit and detailed Epstein’s alleged sex ring. She said she met Epstein in 1999 after Maxwell approached her during her summer job at Mar-a-Lago. She was 15 years old.
Dershowitz and Prince Andrew vehemently denied Giuffre’s claims, and Buckingham Place quickly released a statement: “It is emphatically denied that HRH The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. The allegations made are false and without any foundation.”
“The story is totally made up,” Dershowitz told the BBC after Giuffre’s court filing made international headlines. He added, “My only feeling is if she’s lied about me, which I know to an absolute certainty she has, she should not be believed about anyone else.”
Maxwell allegedly offered Giuffre professional training in massages. But when Giuffre arrived at Epstein’s Palm Beach home, she was allegedly forced into sexual activity with the billionaire and would become trapped in his web.
She said that when she began “working” for Epstein, he flew her to New York on his private jet and molested her at his Manhattan mansion. “I was trained to be ‘everything a man wanted me to be,’” Giuffre said in the declaration. “It wasn’t just sexual training—they wanted me to be able to cater to all the needs of the men they were going to send me to.”
Maxwell and Epstein allegedly ordered Giuffre to pay attention to what the men wanted, so she could report back to them. Giuffre said she traveled with Epstein from 1999 through the summer of 2002, to his homes in New York, New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Paris, France.
“I had sex with him often in these places and also with the various people he demanded that I have sex with,” Giuffre stated. “Epstein paid me for many of these sexual encounters. In fact, my only purpose for Epstein, Maxwell and their friends was to be used for sex.”
Giuffre added that “Epstein had sex with underage girls on a daily basis” and that his interest in minor girls was “obvious” to those in his orbit. His code word for this abuse was “massage,” and Maxwell would often have sex with the victims, too, Giuffre claimed.
Maxwell denied Giuffre’s claims as early as 2011, after Giuffre gave an interview to the Daily Mail, releasing a statement that claimed “the allegations made against me are abhorrent and entirely untrue and I ask that they stop.”
In 2015, Maxwell called Giuffre’s allegations “obvious lies,” and Giuffre filed a defamation suit against the socialite. The Miami Herald and other news outlets have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to unseal all pleadings in that case, which was settled in 2017. Paul Cassell, one of Giuffre’s lawyers, told the court that if the records are made public, they “will show that Epstein and Maxwell were trafficking girls to the benefit of his friends, including Mr. Dershowitz.”
Last week, the court ordered the release of sealed documents in the case.
Epstein allegedly forced Giuffre to have sex with Prince Andrew at least three times, including during an orgy. (The court filing includes a photo of “Andy” putting his arm around Giuffre’s partially bare waist, while Maxwell smiles in the background.)
Giuffre said she was also forced to have sex with another Epstein confidant, Jean Luc Brunel, who runs the MC2 modeling agency.
Brunel supplied Epstein with girls as young as 12, luring aspiring models from poor countries or poor backgrounds to the United States, Giuffre alleged. “Jeffrey Epstein has told me that he has slept with over 1,000 of Brunel’s girls, and everything that I have seen confirms this claim,” Giuffre stated. (Brunel, in a previous statement, denied being involved “in the actions Mr. Jeffrey Epstein is being accused of” and said “I have exercised with the utmost ethical standard for almost 40 years.”)
Giuffre said she finally escaped Epstein’s abuse after he sent her to Thailand to learn Thai massage and to recruit another young girl for his alleged sex ring. Instead, Giuffre met her future husband and relocated to Australia.
Years later, in 2011, two FBI agents from Florida visited Giuffre to discuss Epstein. In another declaration, Giuffre said the investigators “seemed like they were being blocked from doing what they wanted to do—which I thought was to arrest Epstein and his powerful friends for all their illegal sexual crimes.”
In 2014, Giuffre tried to contact the FBI again for an update on the Epstein investigation. “I have never been able to figure out who was (and still is) stopping a prosecution,” Giuffre stated in the declaration.
“Because nothing is being done,” Giuffre added, “it makes me think that Epstein was right when he told me he had so many people in his pocket. Maybe those people are still helping him escape being prosecuted for what he did against me.
“The justice system doesn’t seem to respond to the victims in this case. It seems to favor those who have the most money and power and influence.”