Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier with deep political connections, is facing sex-trafficking charges over decade-old accusations that he sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his mansions in Florida and New York.
The 66-year-old was arrested at a northern New Jersey airport Saturday on charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, according to CNN. But the charges against him — sex trafficking minors and conspiracy — weren’t unsealed until Monday morning. Epstein is currently jailed in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Manhattan courtroom Monday. If found guilty, he could face as much as 45 years in prison — essentially a life sentence for someone his age. U.S. Attorney Geoff Berman said during a press conference Monday that prosecutors are asking that Epstein be held without bail until his trial, since he has two jets and significant reason to try and flee the country.
“We think he’s a significant flight risk,” Berman said.
The newly released charges concern an alleged multi-state sex trafficking ring Epstein operated between 2002 and 2005 with the help of his employees and associates. He allegedly paid dozens of victims — some as young as 14 — hundreds of dollars in cash in exchange for sexual services under the guise of “massages,” according to the indictment. He’d also make his victims undress and ask them to touch him while he masturbated, prosecutors allege. Over the weekend, investigators recovered nude photos of some of the underage victims from Epstein’s 21,000-square foot Manhattan estate.
Sometimes he’d pay the teens to bring him more victims.
Eventually, the so-called “recruiters” built his network to include underage girls between New York and Palm Beach, according to the indictment. Before traveling to Palm Beach via his private jet, his staff would even ensure there were underage victims waiting for him, prosecutors allege.
“It means a great deal to the alleged victims here that they have their day in court, and we want to ensure they have their day in court,” Berman said during the press conference. He said his investigators were “assisted by some excellent investigative journalism,” likely referring to the Miami Herald, which unveiled the scope of the allegations against Epstein and how he avoided more serious charges in the past.
Epstein previously pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida in 2008 and registered as a sex offender after he was accused of molesting underage girls. But he evaded a lengthy jail sentence through a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Florida and served only 13 months in jail. But during much of that sentence, he left jail to go to work at his Palm Beach Office.
Read the indictment here:
Cover image: This July 27, 2006 arrest file photo made available by the Palm Beach, Fla., Sheriff's Office shows Jeffrey Epstein. (AP Photo/Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, File)