Financier Pleaded To Similar Lesser Charge In 2008, Became Registered Sex Offender


AT-A-GLANCE

  • Financier Jeffrey Epstein made a deal to plea to a lesser sex charge in 2008.
  • The new 2019 charges allege an Upper East Side home was a used to recruit underage girls for sex acts.
  • U.S. attorneys say a search found nude photos of minors in home.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Federal prosecutors in New York charged financier Jeffrey Epstein on Monday with sex trafficking dozens of underage girls. The indictment comes a decade after Epstein cut a deal with attorneys in Florida to avoid a similar charge.

Epstein, a 66-year-old hedge fund manager who once hobnobbed with some of the world’s most powerful people, was arrested over the weekend, reports CBS2’s Andrea Cline-Thomas.

Jeffrey Epstein appears in court on July 8, 2019. (credit: Christine Cornell)

He pleaded not guilty and ordered held without bail until a hearing next Monday.

He’s accused of running an alleged sex-trafficking ring out of his $77 million Upper East Side townhouse.

United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Monday a search of Epstein’s New York apartment found photos which appear to be nude photos of underage girls. The indictment against Epstein also noted victims and people who helped recruit further victims were paid a reward of hundreds of dollars per girl.

“As set forth herein, over the course of many years, Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations,” the indictment reads.

READ: U.S. v. Jeffrey Epstein Indictment (PDF)

The indictment alleges that Epstein’s recruited girls between 2002 and 2005 to “engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash. 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.”

U.S. Attorney Describes Sex Trafficking Case Against Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein

The indictment alleges that through this process Epstein “created a vast network of underage victims” for him to engage with in sexual exploitation. The indictment alleges that some victims were as young as 14 when Epstein sexually abused and recruited them in both New York and Florida.

“Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, knew that many of his New York victims were underage, including because certain victims told him their age. Further, once these minor victims were recruited, many were abused by Epstein on multiple subsequent occasions at the New York Residence,” the indictment reads.

“It’s absolutely horrific,” one Upper East Side resident said. “It’s horrendous because minors cannot defend themselves.”

Epstein, whose friends have included President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Great Britain’s Prince Andrew, was arrested Saturday at an airport near New York City after his private jet touched down from France.

A task force of federal agents and New York City police officers met the plane at Teterboro Airport and took Epstein into custody, law enforcement officials said. He is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein said there was almost no chance Epstein will be allowed to go home after the hearing. Under federal court rules, prosecutors can keep a defendant locked up for three extra days while preparing for a bail hearing without needing a reason.

“The government is clearly seeking to have him detained,” Weinstein said.

“The guy is a millionaire or a billionaire. He has unrestrained assets,” he added. “If they let him out on a bond, he may take off, go to a jurisdiction where they don’t have extradition and they may never get him back.”

Epstein’s arrest came amid increased scrutiny of the 2008 non-prosecution deal that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to lesser state charges while maintaining a jet-set lifestyle, which includes homes in Paris and the U.S. Virgin Islands and a pricey Bentley.

The new charges could land him in prison for up to 45 years.

Under the previous deal, overseen by former Miami U.S. Attorney and current Trump labor secretary Alexander Acosta, Epstein avoided a possible life sentence and served 13 months in jail after pleading guilty to Florida charges of soliciting and procuring a person under age 18 for prostitution. It also required he reach financial settlements with dozens of his victims and register as a sex offender.

Acosta has defended the plea deal as appropriate under the circumstances, though the White House said in February that it was “looking into” his handling of the deal.

The deal, examined in detail in a series of reports in The Miami Herald, is being challenged in Florida federal court. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra of Florida ruled earlier this year that Epstein’s victims should have been consulted under federal law about the deal, and he is now weighing whether to invalidate the deal.

Federal prosecutors recently filed court papers in the Florida case contending Epstein’s deal, known as an NPA, must stand.

“The past cannot be undone; the government committed itself to the NPA, and the parties have not disputed that Epstein complied with its provisions,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

They acknowledged, however, that the failure to consult victims “fell short of the government’s dedication to serve victims to the best of its ability” and that prosecutors “should have communicated with the victims in a straightforward and transparent way.”

The victims in the Florida case have until Monday to respond to the Justice Department’s filing.

“They deserve their day in court. We are proud to be standing up for them by bringing this indictment,” Berman said.

It was not immediately clear whether that case and the new case involved the same victims since nearly all have remained anonymous. Even so, Weinstein said, the deal only applies to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida. The current case is being pursued by the Southern District of New York.

Further, there are no double jeopardy implications because Epstein’s guilty plea involved only state crimes, while the current case involves federal law.

According to court records in Florida, authorities say at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion for what turned into sexual encounters after female fixers looked for suitable girls locally and in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world.

Some girls were also allegedly brought to Epstein’s building on E. 71st Street in Manhattan, as well as homes in New Mexico and a private Caribbean island, according to court documents.

Epstein’s arrest Saturday also came just days after a federal appeals court in New York ordered the unsealing of nearly 2,000 pages of records in a since-settled defamation case involving Epstein.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)