Wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein charged with sex trafficking: Indictment

Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy financier and registered sex offender with a circle of rich and powerful friends, has been charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Monday following his sudden arrest over the weekend.

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Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York allege that from about 2002 to 2005, Epstein, now 66, “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations,” using cash payments to recruit a “vast network of underage victims,” some of whom were as young as 14 years old.

Epstein appeared in court on Monday afternoon, wearing navy blue prison garb, and pleaded not guilty while several of his alleged victims seated in the courtroom watched the proceedings. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller characterized the government’s evidence as “strong,” adding that several additional alleged victims have come forward since Epstein’s arrest at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on Saturday evening.

If convicted, he could face up to 45 years imprisonment, which prosecutors say would likely amount to a life sentence.

PHOTO:U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in N.Y., July 8, 2019.Richard Drew/AP

PHOTO:U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in N.Y., July 8, 2019.

The indictment highlights alleged incidents involving three minor girls — identified only as Minor Victim-1, Minor Victim-2 and Minor Victim-3 — in which Epstein paid them hundreds of dollars to provide “massages” that ultimately escalated into sexual encounters, and then later “encouraged or enticed” them to recruit other girls to do the same, thus maintaining “a steady supply of new victims.”

Epstein also “worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates who facilitated his conduct by, among other things, contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters with Epstein,” the indictment said.

At a press conference Monday morning, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said that authorities seized “nude photographs of what appear to be underage girls” while executing a search warrant at Epstein’s New York residence.

PHOTO: Demonstrators hold signs protesting Jeffrey Epstein, as he awaits arraignment in New York, July 8, 2019.Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Demonstrators hold signs protesting Jeffrey Epstein, as he awaits arraignment in New York, July 8, 2019.

More than a decade ago, Epstein served just 13 months in jail after reaching a much-criticized plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami — then led by Alexander Acosta, who is now President Donald Trump’s labor secretary. The deal not only allowed Epstein to plead guilty to two state charges and avoid federal charges for an allegedly broad pattern of similar conduct, but also provided him and any alleged co-conspirators with immunity from further federal prosecution in the Southern District of Florida.

In Monday’s indictment, however, prosecutors argued that the alleged trafficking of minor girls occurred outside that jurisdiction, with Epstein allegedly abusing “numerous minor victims” at his Manhattan mansion and Epstein’s associates placing calls from New York to Florida to set up appointments for Epstein at his Palm Beach mansion.

Epstein’s defense attorney Reid Weingarten seemed to suggest that this new indictment violated the spirit of Epstein’s previous agreement with the government.

“This indictment is essentially a do-over,” Weingarten said. “That should chill the blood of every defense attorney who has negotiated with the federal government.”

At Monday’s hearing, prosecutors argued that Epstein should be detained pending trial, and the judge set a detention hearing for July 15.

In a bail memorandum submitted to the court ahead of the hearing, prosecutors argued that Epstein not only poses an “extreme” flight risk — especially since he owns two private jets and a private island — but that he also represents a danger to both the case and the community.

PHOTO: Jeffrey Epstein in Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 8, 2004.Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images, FILE

Jeffrey Epstein in Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 8, 2004.

“The defendant is extraordinarily wealthy and has access to vast financial resources to fund any attempt to flee,” the memo states. “Indeed, his potential avenues of flight from justice are practically limitless.”

Prosecutors also cited “credible allegations that the defendant engaged in witness tampering, harassment or other obstructive behaviors” in connection with the previous federal investigation of his alleged conduct in Florida, and noted the discovery of “a vast trove of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls” in the search of his Manhattan mansion. Prosecutors said some of that material was discovered in a locked safe, on compact discs with handwritten labels such as “Misc nudes 1” and “Girl pics nude.”

“The defendant, a registered sex offender, is not reformed, he is not chastened, he is not repentant,” the memo states. “Rather, he is a continuing danger to the community and an individual who faces devastating evidence supporting deeply serious charges.”

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