Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of presidents and princes, a multimillionaire financial adviser and a registered sex offender was arrested Saturday in New Jersey on federal sex trafficking charges, according to law enforcement authorities.
Update 10:23 a.m. EDT Aug. 10: Jeffrey Epstein was found dead overnight in his New York City jail cell, officials said. Epstein, 66, hung himself and his body was found at about 7:30 a.m. EST Saturday, The New York Times reported.
Original report: Epstein was taken into custody at Teterboro Airport as his plane landed after a flight from Paris, authorities say.
According to law enforcement officials, Epstein was arrested following a joint investigation by the FBI and New York police. Court documents related to the case have been kept under seal.
Epstein’s arrest comes amid questions about a 2008 non-prosecution deal that federal authorities gave Epstein that allowed him to escape a possible life sentence on charges he molested scores of teenage girls in his homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and New York City.
Who is Epstein and why was he arrested last weekend? Here’s a look at what led up to Saturday’s arrest.
Who is Jeffrey Epstein?
Epstein, 66, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of an employee of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
After high school, he attended Cooper Union College and later New York University, though he never earned a college degree.
After teaching mathematics for two years, Epstein got a job as an options trader at Bear Stearns, an investment bank, in 1976. Epstein was so good at the job that four years later he became a limited partner at Bear Stearns.
In 1982, he left Bear Stearns to form his own company, J. Epstein & Co., which later became known as the Financial Trust Company. The company was based in the U.S. Virgin Islands on St. Thomas.
Epstein, according to a profile in Vanity Fair in 2003, made hundreds of millions of dollars investing money for his clients. One client was Leslie Wexner, the founder of Limited Brands, which includes Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret and other brands. Epstein’s work for Wexner was a primary source of his financial success.
Epstein has homes in New York City, Paris, St. Thomas, New Mexico and Palm Beach, Florida.
What is he accused of?
In 2005, Palm Beach police began to investigate Epstein on charges that he was soliciting underage girls for prostitution.
Officials said Epstein and some of his assistants were luring teenage girls to his Palm Beach home with the promise of a well-paying job of giving him “massages.” The massages turned into sexual encounters, after which he would pay the teenagers between $200 and $1,000.
According to investigators, Epstein had cameras placed in clocks and other items in the room to secretly record his sexual encounters and those of other influential men he invited into his homes to have sex with young girls.
The encounters with the girls happened in Florida and his home in New York, according to a plea agreement Epstein’s lawyers entered into with prosecutors. According to some, the encounters also took place on his private St. Thomas island.
By the end of the investigation, law enforcement authorities would say Epstein assaulted more than 30 girls, most between 13 and 17 years old.
The agreement said that for six years, between 2001 and 2007, Epstein was involved in the “conspiracy to use and the use of facilities of interstate commerce to persuade, induce or entice minor females to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to travel and travel in interstate commerce for purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minor females and to knowingly recurring, enticing and obtaining persons under the age of eighteen years to engage in commercial sex acts.”
Under a controversial deal, Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution.
He served 13 months of the recommended 18-month sentence. Epstein served his time in the Palm Beach County Jail on a work-release program that allowed him to work at his office for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.
Why was the plea deal controversial?
Epstein served 13 months in jail and had to register as a sex offender following his 2008 arrest. The sentence was a far cry from what he faced for charges of prostitution and sexual assault of a minor.
Controversy over the deal, which was approved by then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and current labor secretary Alexander Acosta, began almost immediately and has continued some 11 years later.
The deal, called a non-prosecution agreement required that Epstein plead guilty to two state prostitution charges, register as a sex offender and reach financial settlements with dozens of victims. In exchange for that, Epstein and four of his associates received immunity from federal criminal charges.
In addition, immunity was granted to “any potential co-conspirators,” an unusual move for prosecutors. The potential co-conspirators were not named in the agreement.
The deal, according to a series of reports by The Miami Herald, included this paragraph, “"Therefore, on authority of R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, prosecution in this District for these offenses shall be deferred in favor of prosecution by the State of Florida, provided that Epstein abides by the following conditions and the requirements of this Agreement set forth below."
That part of the agreement essentially shut down the FBI’s investigation into any other possible crimes or additional victims of Epstein’s.
However, the agreement will not protect Epstein if he committed crimes in other states, it applies only to the Southern District of Florida.
Another part of the deal that has lately drawn scrutiny is that the agreement was sealed – meaning it was not available to view by the public – despite a law that would have allowed victims to be informed about the specifics of the plea deal.
Two women who said Epstein abused them as teenagers have filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging that the deal violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. They want the plea deal voided.
If he served his time, what was he arrested on suspicion of on Saturday?
According to law enforcement officials, Epstein’s arrest on Saturday stems from alleged incidents that happened in the early 2000s.
A criminal indictment unsealed Monday charges Epstein with having operated a sex trafficking ring between 2002 and 2005 in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls.
"The victims described herein were as young as 14 years old at the time they were abused...and were, for various reasons, often particularly vulnerable to exploitation," according to the indictment. "Epstein intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18."
In addition, the indictment charged that Epstein allegedly created a network to "sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls,” and "worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates" to secure victims and schedule sexual encounters.
The indictment also said Epstein worked with associates to lure the girls to his homes, as well as paying some of the victims to recruit other girls to come to his home.
Who are his famous friends?
Epstein is alleged to have thrown parties and provided young girls for influential friends to have sex with.
However, no one has been charged with having sex with underaged girls Epstein allegedly provided for them.
Epstein is said to have been friends, at least for some time, with President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and England’s Prince Andrew.
One report has Clinton and his Secret Service detail on Epstein’s plane more than 20 times.
Trump once described Epstein as a “nice guy,” but then banned him from his Mar-a-Lago estate after he pleaded guilty to sex charges in 2008.
Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a Democratic National Committee official tweeted on Saturday that it is "quite likely that some of our faves are implicated but we must follow the facts and let the chips fall where they may - whether on Republicans or Democrats” in the "horrific" sex-trafficking case against Epstein.
She did not explain what she meant by “some of our faves.”
Is he a billionaire?
While Epstein is generally referred to as a billionaire, a story from Forbes says proof that he has a “ten-figure fortune” has never been found.
According to the magazine’s online site, Epstein has never been included in the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, and the post references a 2010 story that said, “The source of his wealth — a money management firm in the U.S. Virgin Islands — generates no public records, nor has his client list ever been released.”
Epstein’s attorneys, in a May 2010 court filing to establish punitive damages for victims covered by the 2008 plea deal, “agreed to a confidential stipulation that his net worth is in excess of nine figures.”
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