A two-count indictment unsealed by federal prosecutors on July 8 charged billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein with sex trafficking and conspiracy charges stemming from an international trafficking ring he allegedly ran.
Court documents show Epstein sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and in Palm Beach, Florida, among others. Epstein, who is a registered sex offender, has largely managed to avoid major jail time, even after more than a decade of such allegations.
Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a July 8 press conference that prosecutors are asking for Epstein to be detained until the trial. Epstein is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Berman also confirmed previous reports that said Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on July 6, after his private plane had landed from France.
“The alleged behavior shocks the conscience,” Berman said. “And while the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims, now young women.”
Berman then pointed to a blue banner next to him with the FBI’s hotline “1-800-CALL-FBI” before asking those watching to come forward if they were a victim or had information relating to the alleged conduct laid out in the 14-page unsealed indictment.
At a court appearance in Manhattan federal court on July 8, Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges. A federal judge ordered him to remain in jail until a subsequent bail hearing scheduled for July 11.
Between 2002 and 2005, Epstein “enticed and recruited” minor girls in New York and Florida to engage in sex acts, after which he would pay the victims hundreds of dollars in cash. The indictment also detailed how the 66-year-old hedge fund manager maintained a “vast network” of underage girls.
“In order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain … victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein,” court documents stated.
The victims, according to the indictment, were as young as 14 at the time they were abused by Epstein, who is accused of “intentionally” luring minors. Victims were initially recruited to provide “massages” for Epstein, “which would be performed nude or partially nude, would become increasingly sexual in nature, and would typically include one or more sex acts,” according to the indictment.
To maintain this network, Epstein worked and conspired with other people, “including employees and associates,” who facilitated his conduct by contacting and scheduling the victim’s sexual encounters with Epstein. None of the associates or employees were named in the indictment.
FBI agents also seized nude photos of what appeared to be underage girls from Epstein’s Manhattan home as part of a search warrant. The FBI has designated the Epstein case a major national investigation and the No. 1 national case on the agency’s hotline.
Bill Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said at the press conference that children who are victims are still traumatized by abuse long after it occurs.
“Those who have been victimized by child sexual predators are frequently haunted by memories of these crimes well into their adulthood, often for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“I stand among many who make it our mission to put predators behind bars where they belong. Regardless of the predator’s power, wealth, or perceived connections,” Sweeney said.
Epstein has connections to numerous high-profile people, including former President Bill Clinton, the UK’s Prince Andrew, actor Kevin Spacey, and director Woody Allen. Clinton flew on Epstein’s jet, infamously dubbed the “Lolita Express,” at least 26 times, according to records obtained by Fox News in 2016.
Epstein knew many of the victims were underage because some told him their ages. Once a minor victim was recruited, many continued to be abused on “multiple subsequent occasions” by Epstein at his New York residence, according to court documents.
“Victims of child sex trafficking come from all walks of life,” Sweeney said. “They are our neighbors, our students, young adults looking for help, vulnerable foster children, the list goes on and on.”
The charges carry with them a maximum sentence of 45 years in jail. Berman said at Epstein’s age, they are tantamount to “a life sentence.”
During a question-and-answer session after prepared statements, Berman said the investigation was assisted by “some excellent investigative journalism.”
Independent journalist Mike Cernovich was the first person to file the lawsuit that ordered the recent unsealing of the documents in the Epstein case, marking a major legal victory. He said his 2017 suit brought renewed scrutiny, with the Miami Herald later joining his suit on appeal.
“Nobody cared about Jeffrey Epstein in the prosecutor’s office,” Cernovich previously told The Epoch Times. “They wanted a cover-up but they realized, now that these records were becoming unsealed, that they can’t cover [for] him anymore.”
Berman also said his office wasn’t bound by the previous plea deal in which Epstein was sentenced to 13 months in prison in 2008; he said that deal only binds the Southern District of Florida. The previous deal is currently being challenged in a Florida federal court.
Maurene Comey, the daughter of former FBI Director James Comey, is also part of the public corruption unit handling the case against Epstein.