Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein allegedly posed as a modeling scout for the lingerie company Victoria’s Secret in order to lure some of his victims into situations where he could sexually abuse them.
Epstein became notorious after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges last July. He was facing up to 45 years behind bars for allegedly sexually abusing young girls for years, many as young as 14. However, his accusers never got to see any major conviction because Epstein, 66, was found dead a month later in his cell after an apparent suicide. He had faced similar charges over a decade earlier after he was accused of molesting dozens of women in Florida, but he seemingly got a sweetheart deal in 2008, which resulted in a lenient sentence and a sex offender status.
But even though Epstein died, the alleged damage he caused lives on as details about his actions emerge following his death. One such detail, as the new Netflix docuseries “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” describes, is how he allegedly used his business ties to lure women.
Epstein accuser and model Alicia Arden told the producers of the docuseries that a friend told her that Epstein was a talent scout for Victoria’s Secret who could get her into the catalogue. She said she met with Epstein in a California hotel room in 1997, where he allegedly began groping her after asking her to strip down to her underwear. She said she ran out of the room crying and filed a police report, but noted that it’s unclear if her complaint was ever investigated.
Arden was not the only one to come forward with such a story. The docuseries alleged that Epstein claimed he was a scout for Victoria’s Secret to lure several women.
Epstein was, of course, not actually a modeling recruiter for the company, but he did have ties to Victoria’s Secret. In the 1990s, when Epstein was allegedly using the scout line to target victims, he was very close with Leslie “Les” Wexner, the CEO of L Brands. L Brands is the parent organization for Victoria's Secret in addition to other clothing brands like Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Express.
Epstein and Wexner met in 1986 and soon became close, the docuseries says. Epstein claimed to be running a wealth management company and by 1990, Epstein was managing Wexner’s money, according to a July 2019 Town & Country story. While often referred to as Epstein’s most prominent client, Wexner was also his only confirmed client, a 2003 Vanity Fair profile on Epstein reported. He kept all his other clients and deals private. Such privacy led to suspicions over where Epstein’s wealth actually came from.
“Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” noted at this point, Wexner even provided power of attorney to Epstein over his financial affairs.
“I was astonished because Les Wexner is not the kind of guy who gives up control over anything,” Tim Feran, former financial reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, told producers. Rumors swirled that Epstein and Wexner were in a sexual or romantic relationship, according to the docuseries.
Steven Hoffenberg, former chairman of debt collection agency and Ponzi scheme Towers Financial Corporation, was working with Epstein during the early 1990s and claimed that Epstein would regularly travel to visit Wexner on a private jet provided to him by Wexner.
“Epstein explained to me personally that he could control the emotions of Leslie Wexner easily because Leslie Wexner was fascinated and Wexner totally adored Epstein,” Hoffenberg told “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.”
He claimed that Epstein told him he planned to manipulate and control Lexner’s fortune so that he could invest and “make substantial income.”
Wexner, along with L Brand executives, were reportedly made aware in the mid-1990s that Epstein was posing as a modeling recruiter for Victoria’s Secret, according to a 2019 Atlantic piece. No action against Epstein was taken. Instead, Wexner gave Epstein his infamous Upper East Side mansion in 1998, the setting for many incidents of alleged sexual abuse, the docuseries says.
Wexner publicly expressed disgust for Epstein after he died. He also denied knowing about Epstein's alleged sex crimes.
Following Epstein's July arrest, he wrote in a statement obtained by the Wall Street Journal, "I would never have guessed that a person I employed more than a decade ago could have caused such pain to so many people. I have searched my soul … reflected … and regretted that my path ever crossed his."
Wexner revealed last September that he had cut ties with Epstein back in 2007 after allegedly discovering that Epstein had stolen more than 46 million dollars from him. He didn’t press charges, nor did he explain why he didn’t press charges. The docuseries alludes to rumors that Epstein made it a habit to blackmail powerful people.
"At some point in your life we are all betrayed by friends," Wexner said about Epstein last September at an investor update meeting, Business Insider reported at the time. "Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so deprived is something that I'm embarrassed that I was even close to."
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