Multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein has been charged with child sex trafficking in dozens of decade-old cases involving teenage girls in New York and Florida, according to court documents unsealed in New York on Monday. The alleged abuse described by federal prosecutors in New York followed a similar pattern to allegations out of Florida that led to Epstein’s arrest and, ultimately, his cushy plea deal over prostitution-related charges in 2008.
The new charges, for which the well-connected 66-year-old (who has said he is friends with both President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton) was arrested on Saturday, include victims as young as 14 who may or may not have been named in the previous criminal case. According to the prosecutors, Epstein’s alleged abuse occurred from 2002 to 2005 in both Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, where he had homes.
In the fall of 2018, the Miami Herald published a three-part investigation that found Epstein could have had as many as 80 possible victims and described how Epstein allegedly offered to pay financially struggling or in other ways vulnerable girls to give him massages, which often involved full or partial nudity and usually led to coerced sex acts. (Prosecutors at a press conference Monday credited “some excellent investigative journalism” for helping in the case.) Epstein also allegedly enlisted a number of his victims to help him find more potential victims. The filing concluded that Epstein, with the help of three employees and victims he recruited, had “created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit.”
The Herald also reported that Epstein may have made his teenage victims available to other powerful and wealthy men for abuse. An alleged Epstein victim has accused the prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz of participating in the abuse—Dershowitz has repeatedly denied the allegation—and news of Epstein’s arrest sparked speculation that other powerful figures could still be implicated in the sex ring.
It also appears prosecutors may have discovered new crimes not yet named during a search of Epstein’s New York mansion at the same time as his arrest. In the press conference, Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, told reporters that authorities had recovered nude photographs of what they believe to be underage girls.
Berman asked for any women who think they were victims of Epstein to call. “While the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims—now young women,” he said. “They deserve their day in court.” He declined to comment on the possibility that other suspects could be implicated.
Epstein was scheduled to appear in federal court on Monday. He remains in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, and prosecutors arguing against bail said they believe he poses a significant flight risk because of his private jets and travel abroad. He was charged on two counts for child sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy. He faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in jail, which, as Berman said Monday, “to someone of Epstein’s age is basically a life sentence.”
Epstein is already a registered sex offender in Florida. The nonprosecution agreement that protected him from more severe charges—and that, in a highly unusual move, protected any potential co-conspirators in the abuse—led to Epstein serving just 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach, Florida, county jail, during which time he was allowed to work out of his office six days of the week.
Current U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta was then the U.S. attorney in Miami who struck the lenient nonprosecution agreement with Epstein’s lawyers. Emails between Acosta and the lawyers published by the Herald showed that Acosta explicitly allowed Epstein’s lawyers to set the terms of the deal. Acosta has defended the decision as one made to guarantee that Epstein went to jail.
Reporting from the Herald and others found that Epstein’s alleged victims felt forgotten by a justice system that favored the wealthy and well-connected. A federal indictment into Epstein’s crimes back in the early 2000s named the financier in sex trafficking charges, but the nonprosecution deal with the Southern District of Florida allowed Epstein to plead guilty to only the far lesser state charges related to prostitution. Notably, the prosecutors also failed to notify victims of the deal—something a judge in Florida ruled earlier this year to have been a violation of federal law. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility announced that it was investigating whether the attorneys in the deal committed “professional misconduct.”
As Berman said Monday, the Southern District of New York is not constrained by that deal.