Before the Epstein Scandal, There Was the Franklin Scandal

By Ken Silva
Ken Silva
Ken Silva
Ken Silva covers national security issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting background also includes cybersecurity, crime and offshore finance – including three years as a reporter in the British Virgin Islands and two years in the Cayman Islands. Contact him at ken.silva@epochtimes.us
November 30, 2021 Updated: December 1, 2021

News Analysis

On Dec. 4, demonstrators will rally in New York to protest what they say is a cover-up of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell alleged pedophile network.

“The nonviolent, non-politically partisan demonstration will send a message to the Department of Justice that the American people will not settle for only Maxwell being indicted on one count of child trafficking, because the Epstein/Maxwell child trafficking network had multiple procurers and perpetrators,” event organizer Nick Bryant told The Epoch Times.

According to Bryant, this isn’t the first time the DOJ and FBI have worked to cover up a pedophile network that catered to the country’s political and wealthy elite.

He would know. One of the leading researchers on sex trafficking networks and child abuse, Bryant made his mark in the Epstein scandal when he obtained and eventually had published Epstein’s infamous black book—revealing the international financier’s numerous high-profile contacts.

But before that, Bryant came across another explosive document that would lead to his sweeping account of what’s now known as the Franklin Scandal—a child sex-trafficking ring that ran rampant throughout the United States in the 1980s.

Bryant said in the early 2000s he came across a 1987 investigation report from U.S. Customs on the Finders cult—a group allegedly involved in the sexual abuse of minors. Law enforcement charged two members of the movement in Tallahassee when they were found with six unkempt children in a public park, but the charges were dropped weeks later.

The Customs investigation report, which Bryant published in his book, reveals the possible reason why: A Customs agent said he was told that “the investigation into the activity of the Finders had become an internal CIA matter.”

“No further information will be available,” the Customs report stated. “No further action will be taken.”

Bryant said the report suggests to him that the CIA quashed the investigation into the Finders. Up until that point, Bryant said he didn’t believe in the notion that a sex trafficking ring could operate with government knowledge—or even consent.

“That one document opened up my mind to entertaining ideas that I previously wouldn’t have entertained,” he said.

The Customs report would lead Bryant down a rabbit hole to Omaha, Nebraska, where another sex-trafficking ring was said to have been operated by the head of the now-defunct, eponymous Franklin Federal Credit Union.

Separate state and federal grand juries concluded in 1990 that the Franklin sex-trafficking allegations were a “carefully crafted hoax,” but Bryant’s work suggests that the DOJ and FBI worked to subvert investigations.

For instance, Bryant said the FBI pressured one of the victims, then-21-year-old Alicia Owen, to recant her allegations that she was trafficked by the Franklin network during her adolescence. When Owen refused, she was charged with 16 counts of perjury and served more than four years in prison—about two of them in solitary confinement.

“The authorities wanted to destroy her,” Bryant said.

Franklin victims eventually received some vindication in 1999, when U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom issued a summary judgment against the former Franklin head in civil proceedings.

Urbom said he accepted plaintiff Paul Bonnaci’s evidence that the Franklin sex-ring leader forced him to “scavenge for children to be a part of the defendant’s sexual abuse and pornography ring, forced the plaintiff to engage in numerous sexual contacts with the defendant … and others, and participate in deviate sexual games and masochistic orgies with other minor children.”

Bryant said the “real vindication” for Franklin victims came when the alleged sex-ring operator—who was released from prison in 2001 after serving nearly 10 years for financial crimes—dropped his appeal of the judgment in response to motions for depositions from the plaintiff.

After Bryant published the book “The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse & Betrayal” in 2009, he turned his attention to Epstein and Maxwell. At first, Bryant said he didn’t think Epstein and Maxwell were as nefarious as the Franklin players.

“I originally thought Epstein was a kinder, gentler trafficking network than Franklin. But what I’ve come to know is—there are reports of girls being trafficked by Epstein as young as 11 or 12—but then, I have a couple of sources, one of them very solid, that there were girls under 10 years old,” Bryant said.

“And also, some of these girls were pandered to very sadistic pedophiles, like with the Franklin network.”

Bryant said his years of research led him to conclude that the Franklin and Epstein networks are similar constructs.

“Epstein is similar with Franklin because these kids generally came from lower socioeconomic, dysfunctional families—and then they were pandered and repeatedly molested,” he said. “Both involved flying children around, pandering them to the rich and powerful, and hidden cameras.”

Given the controversies surrounding Epstein’s death, the narrowly tailored charges against Maxwell, and the lack of law enforcement actions against their accomplices, Bryant said he hasn’t seen many positive signs that their victims will receive justice.

“The Maxwell trial is going to be an abomination of justice. Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein trafficked children for 25 years, and Ghislaine is only indicted on one count of child trafficking,” he said. “She should be indicted on scores of child-trafficking counts. But she’s only indicted on one, which shows me that this is a coverup.”

But Bryant said he’s not giving up hope. He said he wants to make sure that the Epstein/Maxwell scandal doesn’t meet the same fate as the Finders and Franklin investigations, which is why he’s organized the Dec. 4 rally with the backing of 62 anti-sex trafficking organizations.

“This rally on Saturday is about demanding that the Justice Department indict other people who molested these children for 25 years,” he said. “The government is going to want to sweep this under the rug, and Americans need to demand justice.”

Speakers at the rally include Epstein survivor Teresa Helm and Franklin survivor Owen, who will be making her first ever public speaking appearance. The event is scheduled to start 1 p.m. at Thomas Paine Park in New York.

Following the rally, Bryant said his group is partnering with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation to organize an email campaign to the DOJ, where people inundate prosecutors with demands for justice.

“If we don’t get any action by that time, then there’s going to be a rally in Washington DC in front of the Department of Justice,” he said.

Ken Silva
Ken Silva covers national security issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting background also includes cybersecurity, crime and offshore finance – including three years as a reporter in the British Virgin Islands and two years in the Cayman Islands. Contact him at ken.silva@epochtimes.us