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Billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein is facing federal sex-trafficking charges that accuse him of luring dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, to his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach for sex acts.
The new charges come more than a decade after Epstein—who in the past has counted as friends powerful figures such as President Trump and former President Bill Clinton—received a widely criticized plea deal that prevented him from facing similar charges in Florida, according to The New York Times.
The new charges focus on accusations that the 66-year-old sexually assaulted girls in his Manhattan mansion, paying the teens “hundreds of dollars in cash” to engage in sex acts with him.
“Moreover, and in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein,” reads an indictment unsealed and obtained by the Times.
Federal prosecutors allege that Epstein was able to create “a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit” both in New York and Palm Beach and relied on help from several of his employees and associates who helped schedule the sexual encounters.
As part of the alleged abuse—which investigators believe began in at least 2002—prosecutors say Epstein recruited girls to provide “massages” for him, requiring the underage girls to perform the massages either nude or partially nude.
These massages “would become increasingly sexual in nature, and would typically include one or more sex acts,” the indictment states. The acts would include groping, direct and indirect contact with the victim’s genitals, and touching the victim’s genitals with his hands or sex toys. Epstein is also accused of masturbating during the sexual encounters, according to the indictment.
The abuse allegedly occurred at his Manhattan mansion between 2002 and 2005 and involved “numerous minor victims.”
Epstein, a registered sex offender, was arrested Saturday in Teterboro, New Jersey and is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, NBC News reports.
During a weekend search of his $50 million Upper East Side townhouse, investigators seized “perhaps thousands” of pictures of nude and half-nude women, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
The photographs seized from the property included images of “what appeared to be underage girls,” Berman said, according to the New York Post.
Controversial Plea Deal in Florida
The latest charges come more than a decade after Epstein reached a highly controversial plea deal with authorities in Florida in 2008 that shielded him from further prosecution by federal authorities for many years.
Authorities began to look into activities at Epstein’s Palm Beach Mansion in 2005 after the parents of one of the minor victims went to police. Investigators soon identified dozens of other potential victims—some reportedly as young as 13 years old. Investigators believed that Epstein engaged in the sexual encounters as many as three times a day, according to a 2018 report from The Miami Herald.
He could have faced life in prison, but in a deal orchestrated in part by federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta, who now serves as President Trump’s labor secretary, and Epstein’s attorney Jay Lefkowitz, Epstein received a sentence of just 13 months behind bars.
Epstein agreed to plead guilty to two state-level prostitution charges: procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution.
In exchange, the federal investigation ground to a halt and Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement were given immunity from federal criminal charges. The secret deal also gave immunity to “any potential co-conspirators” in the crimes, The Miami Herald reports.
The victims and their families were not made aware of the deal until after it had been approved by a judge.
More than a decade later, the way the case was handled gained new attention. In February, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that Florida prosecutors in the case had broken the law by not informing the victims before the deal was agreed to by the judge. Marra is now deciding whether to invalidate the deal as a result of his finding, Fox News reports.
The Justice Department has also opened an inquiry into the case, the Times reports.
Acosta has denied any wrongdoing for his role in the plea agreement.
Federal prosecutors were able to bring the latest charges against Epstein without violating the previous immunity deal because the initial deal only applied to the Miami area, according to NBC News. The latest charges focus on Epstein’s alleged activities in New York.
It’s not clear whether any of the alleged victims in the federal indictment were the same as those identified in the Florida case.
A Lavish Lifestyle With Powerful Friends
Epstein earned his millions as a well-established financier, whose wealthy clients even included primary investor Leslie Wexner, who owns names such as Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, according to a 2003 article in Vanity Fair.
He’s also rubbed elbows with a number of powerful and influential leaders in America, including President Trump and former President Bill Clinton.
“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” Trump told New York magazine in 2002. “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.”
The article went on to describe Epstein as a mysterious, Gatsbyesque figure—who was also a devoted yoga enthusiast and science supporter.
In a statement to the magazine, former President Bill Clinton called Epstein a “highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of twenty-first-century science.”
Clinton reportedly took at least 26 trips on Epstein’s private jet, named the “Lolita Express,” according to court documents obtained in 2016 by Fox News.
After his release from jail in 2011, Epstein celebrated in a party with Britain’s Prince Andrew, the New York Post reported at the time.
Epstein is scheduled to appear before a judge today on the latest charges against him.
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