“I’m teaching a bunch of little brats next year.”—Jeffrey Epstein, 1974-75 Dalton School Yearbook
It took a clandestine FBI-NYPD joint sting operation to arrest the elusive convicted sex offender Jeffrey E. Epstein on Saturday July 6th on the tarmac of Teterboro airport in New Jersey (a story first broken by The Daily Beast). Simultaneously, a sledgehammer was used to break the entry to his massive $77 million New York City townhouse on East 71st Street. Police recovered hundreds, possibly thousands, of nude images of young women and girls—an automatic legal problem for a man who is on multiple sex offender registries. Epstein’s case may be one of the most extreme cases of organized child abuse in modern history.
Epstein is without doubt the wealthiest individual on any sex offender registry in the United States (and he is at Level 3—at greatest risk of abusing more children). On his registry entry, the following residences are listed: his $7.8 million 70-acre private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands (his primary residence owned by his Delaware-based LLC, L.S.J.), his Paris apartment on Avenue Foch (one of the most expensive addresses in the world), his $15.5 million Palm Beach estate, his $77 million New York City townhouse (a gift from Victoria’s Secret founder Leslie Wexner), and his $10 million castle/ranch in New Mexico. At the bottom of his residences is another island in the Virgin Islands, Great St. James. Epstein purchased it in 2016 for $18 million and was actively (and without permit) developing an even larger compound on its 165 acres—that is, until his arrest this past Saturday.
As far as vehicles, his offender registry entries list two Gulfstream jets (though his lawyers say he sold one of them in June), two helicopters, nine Mercedes-Benzes, nine Chevy Suburbans, three Cadillac Escalades, three Harley-Davidsons, one $375k Bentley Mulsanne, a jet-ski, and other assorted items. He has wined and dined American presidents, princes, elite academics, socialites, corporate CEOs and other VIPs. His alleged victims were little girls, often economically destitute or runaways or orphans—from sixth graders to high-school sophomores. Because his alleged crimes span multiple decades, his victims likely number in the hundreds—or more.
“Unnoticed by almost everybody, travelling with her was a greying, plumpish, middle-aged American businessman who managed to avoid the photographers.” —Mail on Sunday, Nov. 15, 1992 (London edition)
That businessman was Jeffrey Epstein. In the early 1990s, British newspapers that followed British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell (alleged to be Epstein’s chief procurer of victims) tried to figure out who Epstein was. The Mail on Sunday asked in 1992: “But what is he—property developer, concert pianist, math teacher, corporate treasure hunter, stockbroker, merchant banker or globe-trotting businessman?” No one seemed to know.
Given Epstein’s apparent mystique, I checked New York City’s birth, census, and marriage records to be certain about the facts. Epstein was born Jan. 20 1953 in Brooklyn, NY. His parents were Paula (nee Stolofsky, 1918-2004) and Seymour G. Epstein (1916-1991) and they were married in Brooklyn in 1952—shortly before Jeffrey Epstein’s birth.
Epstein grew up during the 1950s and 1960s in the Lafayette neighborhood around Coney Island, as documented by James Patterson, John Connolly, and Tim Malloy in their 2016 book on Epstein, Filthy Rich. Epstein attended the now-shuttered Lafayette High School, a working-class high school that produced a significant number of professional baseball players. Epstein’s mother, Paula, was a homemaker while his father, Seymour, worked for the New York City Parks Department as a groundskeeper and gardener. During their retirement years, Epstein’s parents (as well as several maternal aunts) resided in nearby properties he purchased in West Palm Beach. In 1991, Epstein’s father passed away at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio at the age of 75. His mother passed away in 2004 at age 85 in Palm Beach.
Epstein has a younger brother, Mark (“Puggy”), who has joined him in real-estate deals throughout the years. Mark operates a real-estate business, OSSA Properties, which owns some of the properties—including the apartments in the 301 East 66th Street building—where Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex slaves and other employees were housed (real-estate ownership between the brothers may have commingled).
Jeffrey Epstein graduated from Lafayette High School in 1969 at age 16, having skipped two grades. He was “chubby with curly hair and a high, ‘hee-hee’ kind of laugh,” according to Filthy Rich. In the fall of 1969, Epstein started at Cooper Union and studied there for two years until the spring semester of 1971. Many writers say he attended New York University (NYU) after Cooper Union, but they rarely give specific dates. I decided to verify exactly when Epstein went to college and where. It turned out that Epstein was enrolled at NYU between September of 1971 and June of 1974. Thus, most of Epstein’s college study years were spent at NYU. I verified that he did not graduate from NYU with their registrar.
In a 2002 profile in New York magazine, Thomas Landon reported that Epstein studied at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. It is not clear why Epstein attended two institutions of higher education but did not graduate from either. When Epstein joined the board of Rockefeller University, he misrepresented his educational and employment background; a press release stated that he had “studied physics at Cooper Union in New York and then joined Bear Stearns, becoming a Limited Partner until 1981.” Between Cooper Union and Bear Stearns, Epstein studied at NYU and was a teacher for two years (two unreported and significant events). When a convicted sex offender facing sex-trafficking charges was first employed as a teacher, it bears at least some scrutiny.
After the summer of 1974, Epstein began working as a teacher of mathematics and physics at the Dalton School in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It has been reported that he began there in 1973, but this is incorrect. I searched the 1973-74 Dalton yearbook and there is no mention of Jeffrey Epstein. I then searched Dalton’s school newspaper and found in the September 1974 issue that “... Mr. Epstein, who will also teach physics, [has] also joined the department this year.” Epstein also confirmed that he taught there between 1974 and 1976 in a deposition.
In the United States, there are various schools that educate children from the social upper classes—Kent School, Horace Mann, Miss Porter’s. Dalton is among that set. These schools are often restricted to children from the “old money” stratum in society, with a small number of scholarship students or athletes from non-elite backgrounds.
In 1974, Dalton was run by headmaster Donald Barr—father of Attorney General William Barr, whose Justice Department recently began a review of Epstein’s 2007 non-prosecution agreement for the Palm Beach child sexual assault charges. Writers have noted the interesting coincidence. However, Donald Barr resigned in turmoil in February of 1974 (according to the March 14, 1974 issue of The Daltonian) which was seven months before Jeffrey Epstein began teaching there that fall. While it is possible that Donald Barr may have hired Epstein, if he made personnel decisions long in advance, the Dalton School lost four math teachers (according to The Daltonian) prior to the 1974-75 school year. Therefore the school may have hired Epstein, in part, out of an urgent need to fill vacant positions—even though Epstein did not have a college degree.
Peter Branch was the acting headmaster after Barr’s departure and he may have hired Epstein. Full verification would require access to Dalton’s personnel records, if they still retain them. I put a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request into the State of New York Department of Education and they reported having no teaching license on file for Epstein—this may suggest that he was not planning on a career in teaching. Unlike public schools, it should be noted, a private school like Dalton does not require its teachers to possess a state teaching license or certificate.
Update: After publication, a reporter from the Miami Herald kindly provided me with Branch's phone number. When he spoke with me, he noted that he was upper school director before being appointed interim headmaster at Dalton. His appointment began on July 1, 1974 and Barr's contract at Dalton expired on June 30th. Branch does not recall hiring Epstein and he is relatively certain Barr or possibly the head of the Math Department hired Epstein because hiring decisions were typically made in the spring. He also noted that Barr liked to hire unconventional teachers to enhance the educational experience for students at Dalton.
While at the Dalton School, Epstein was the coach of the math team. In competitions with several local schools, Epstein led the students to victory in one instance and to second place in another. At a February 1976 math meet, the Dalton team competed against Ramaz and the Manhattan Talmudic Academy with “Boss Epstein watching from the sidelines…” (The Daltonian March 5, 1976). At another match up in April 1976, Epstein told his team “a victory would be as easy as Pi.” The paper reported Epstein would be starting a “math-track team” the following year due to his “unique philosophy of integrating physical exercise with spiritual and mathematical stimulation.” The Dalton School students and families are comprised of some of the wealthiest families in the United States—unlike Epstein’s own. But this access may have created an opening for him.
As a young man from a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn (equipped with a deep Brooklyn accent), Jeffrey Epstein at Dalton likely had to be a “quick study” to gracefully flow among the social upper class. Vicky Ward’s 2003 Vanity Fair profile of Epstein deemed him “The Talented Mr. Epstein”—drawing a parallel to Matt Damon’s character in the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, where Tom Ripley cons his way into the upper class through fraud and misrepresentation (and plenty of piano playing). To wit, the April 1975 issue of The Daltonian covered a Parent-Teacher Association event, “the first parent-faculty musical in recent memory,” noting that “Mr. Epstein proved himself to be the ivory show man on the piano.”
Was Epstein wooing and dazzling the parents as a means of gaining access to their rarefied world? It seems to have worked because a parent wondered what he was doing there and put him in touch with the chairman of Bear Stearns, Ace Greenberg (whose children also attended Dalton; Epstein may have tutored them). After the 1975-1976 school year was finished, Epstein informed the school he was not returning and began his career on Wall Street at Bear Stearns.
UPDATE: Peter Branch does remember how Epstein left Dalton: The math and science faculty approached him and asked him what he was "going to do about Jeff." The science faculty were in the process of evaluating teaching and found that Epstein's teaching skills had not improved over the previous year. Branch then informed Epstein that it was time to move on.
After just four years, on August 1, 1980, Bear Stearns published an advert in The Wall Street Journal listing all the people who had made limited partner, including Jeffrey E. Epstein (along with people such as Larry Kudlow, former CNBC commentator and current director of the National Economic Council). Epstein, it seemed, was on the path, to accumulating the economic riches necessary for entry into the one percent. Obtaining the social graces required for acceptance by the social upper class would come much later with the help of several socialites, but mostly Ghislaine Maxwell.
Epstein was permitted to plead guilty to charges of soliciting prostitution in 2008 in the State of Florida. However, his victims were children, and it has been widely pointed out, cannot give consent, and therefore cannot be prostitutes. (Epstein’s lawyers tried to tarnish and humiliate the victims at the time by calling them “prostitutes,” and, as Vanity Fair revealed, Epstein reportedly smeared the underage girls in private as “prostitutes and strippers who’d already been indoctrinated into the sex world.”)
Such lax charges in the Florida case, compared to what he is now facing, were hashed out in a deal with Florida State Attorney Barry Krischer, in conjunction with Alexander Acosta (who just stepped down as President Trump's labor secretary over his role in the Epstein saga). The deal was protested by the highly professional Palm Beach police led by Chief Michael Reiter and the late Detective Joseph Recarey.
Epstein’s 2019 charges are for crimes committed in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. However, there are allegations against Epstein from earlier time periods (such as Maria Farmer’s 2019 sworn affidavit that she and her 15-year old sibling were assaulted by Epstein and Maxwell in various locations in 1996—allegations that were reportedly nixed by an editor from Vicky Ward’s 2003 profile of Epstein). One thing to keep in mind is Epstein was a school teacher and would have had possible access to victims there as well. There are no reports that he did anything at Dalton school, but he was asked about his relations with students in a deposition in 2009 and here is what he said:
His answer about the ages of his students is noteworthy. He replies “Mostly old—mostly 17 and 18.” This tells us that Epstein thinks that the ages of 17 and 18 are “old.” He is asked what subject he was teaching, and he answers truthfully, physics and mathematics. The attorney asks if any of the girls he was teaching were under age 17 at the time, and Epstein answers that he does not know—this sounds genuine. Things take a turn when the attorney asks Epstein if he had any sexual contact with any students at Dalton. Epstein answers the first time with a question, “Again?” He is asked a second time and again answers with a question, “While I was a teacher?” The attorney says yes, let’s start with that question and Epstein gives a solid “no.” The attorney presses “How about after?” and Epstein says “Not that I remember.”
In summary, Epstein revealed that he feels high-school students aged 17 to 18 years are “old” and he that he does not remember if he had sexual contact with Dalton students after he was a teacher there. The final time he is asked, he reads from a statement in which he claims that the attorney’s law firm is engaged in fraud and then pleads his Fifth Amendment rights. Questions about sexual contact with Dalton students appear to be sensitive for him. Epstein depositions are extremely difficult to read because he pleads the Fifth to almost every question—as he eventually does here.
Julie Brown of the Miami Herald has done a significant amount of research on the Epstein case with her and her colleagues’ award-winning Perversion of Justice series. The extensive reporting in the Miami Herald, The Daily Beast, and by independent journalists like Ed Opperman, Pearse Redmond, William Ramsey and others has likely influenced law enforcement to consider the new evidence uncovered by the press—including possible new locations where recruitment or abuse might have occurred.
Related to Epstein’s deposition above, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accused Epstein of sexually abusing her as an underage girl and loaning her out to his famous friends, claimed that Epstein “lost interest” as she got older and sent her to Thailand to bring him another victim, at which point she says she escaped from Epstein.
Another alarming detail about Epstein is reported in Vicky Ward’s 2003 Vanity Fair article. She noted that Epstein left a paperback copy of the Marquis de Sade’s The Misfortunes of Virtue lying on a table at his 71st Street townhouse. Why would Epstein have left this book out in plain view? This obscene novel (even Napoleon ordered its author jailed) is about a 12-year-old French girl, Justine, who travels alone across France and winds up in a monastery and is forced to become the sex slave of monks where she endures repeated sexual assaults and is ordered to participate in orgies. She escapes but suffers similar abuses and encounters as the story follows her life until the age of 26.
Justine may have been a pedophile’s fantasy story in which the victim somehow learns “virtue” from what she endures. Justine almost parallels the life of some of Epstein’s alleged victims. What is even more tragic is that in the course of her reporting, Ward found two of Epstein’s victims and their mother. Ward says they detailed in 2003 how Epstein sexually assaulted them in the mid-1990s—including the time when one was allegedly held captive for 12 hours at mogul Leslie Wexner’s Ohio property after she says Epstein and Maxwell assaulted her. (Wexner has not responded to the allegations.) Perhaps their stories might have been able to deter or expose Epstein earlier, if they had been published when the girls first came forward.
We can expect a trove of information about Epstein to continue to emerge now that he is in jail. Indeed, the Miami Herald reports that at least a dozen new victims have come forward since his arrest. Epstein and his accomplices may have seen his victims as little girls—but now they are strong, brave women fighting back today.
Thomas Volscho is a sociology professor at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island. He has been researching the case of Jeffrey Epstein for a book he is writing.