Tues., July 9, 2019, 9:35 a.m.: This story has been updated.
Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier connected to Donald Trump and Bill Clinton who was arrested last Saturday, has been indicted and charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy, according to court documents unsealed on Monday.
Federal prosecutors allege that between 2002 and 2005, Epstein, 66, “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls” at his expansive mansions in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, giving them hundreds of dollars in exchange for sex acts, the indictment says. The girls would be asked to be nude or partially nude and give Epstein a massage. Epstein would then masturbate or “touch victims’ genitals with his hands or sex toys,” the indictment says.
In exchange for payment, many of the young women were also allegedly tasked with recruiting additional girls to perform sexual services for Epstein, effectively creating a “vast network” of underage sex partners for him, the indictment says. The young girls who recruited other victims were given a finder’s fee for their efforts. Epstein also knew how old his victims were, “because certain victims told him their ages,” the indictment says.
Epstein was arrested on 5:30 p.m. Saturday night as his private jet touched down in New York City’s Teterboro Airport from Paris, Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during a press conference on Monday morning. Berman said that Epstein is facing a maximum sentence of 45 years in jail.
“My office will not rest until perpetrators of these types of crimes are brought to justice,” Berman said during the press conference. “Victims’ voices, including the many voices of Epstein’s alleged victims, must be heard.”
Perhaps the most shocking allegations of the indictment is the extent to which some of Epstein’s employees were actively involved in the scheme, directly paying underage victims and scheduling appointments with them via phone. At least three different employees (known simply as Employee 1, 2, and 3 in the indictment) are said to be tasked with scheduling Epstein’s encounters with underage victims, occasionally calling them to make an appointment at his residence in New York while he was still in Florida. This pyramid-esque recruitment scheme “was how it was able to maintain itself over several years,” Berman said.
Epstein’s arrest came on the heels of a series of reports from the Miami Herald, which investigated a plea deal Epstein struck with then-Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, now U.S. labor secretary under President Trump. According to the terms of the plea deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to Florida state charges of solicitation and procuring a person under 18 for prostitution, and was sentenced to just 13 months in jail out of a possible life sentence, which many viewed as a mere slap on the wrist in light of the severity of the charges against him. Epstein served most of his sentence from his Palm Beach office due to a work release agreement. (Acosta has defended the agreement, and a federal prosecutor in Florida is now considering whether to vacate the terms of the plea deal.)
Epstein appeared in court on Monday and pled not guilty to the sex trafficking charges. His lawyer Reid Weingarten argued that the new charges were essentially a “do-over” for the 2007 charges and that Epstein was not a flight risk. A judge disagreed, ordering Epstein locked up pending a bail hearing on Thursday. He is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan.
During the press conference, Berman said that his office would be seeking detention for Epstein pending trial, citing his enormous wealth and resources as proof that Epstein has “every incentive to try to flee the jurisdiction.
“When you have two planes and you spend much of the year abroad, we think that’s a very real risk,” he said.
A high-powered hedge fund manager with connections to powerful figures like former President Bill Clinton, President Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Epstein had an extensive library of political connections: Clinton flew several times in Epstein’s private plane, and President Trump also frequently hosted Epstein at Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach.
While there has been much speculation as to whether other individuals will be named in charges against Epstein going forward, Berman refused to comment on such speculation: “Justice Department guidelines prohibit us from talking about specific individuals, so if that question comes up about any individual our answer will be no comment across the board,” he said, urging members of the media not to read too much into that statement.
According to lawyer David Boies, it is highly likely that more charges will be added to the indictment against Epstein. “This is an important first step. Hopefully, prosecutors will focus on some of his [Epstein’s] co-conspirators going forward,” he told Fox News.
As part of the indictment, prosecutors are also seeking to seize Epstein’s massive home at 9 East 71st Street, an opulent seven-story mansion that was built by an heir to the Macy’s fortune. Epstein reportedly spent $10 million renovating the mansion, according to a 2015 Curbed report on his real estate holdings.
During the press conference, FBI special director Bill Sweeney emphasized that the Epstein case was one of the highest on the federal docket, and that the government was actively looking for other victims to come forward. He urged any of Epstein’s alleged victims to contact 1800-CALL-FBI with any information.
“If you have been victimized in any way, or if you have information about his alleged illegal behavior, we want to hear from you,” he said.
Rolling Stone reached out to Epstein’s legal team for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.