How a teen runaway became one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims
At least a dozen new victims have come forward to claim they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein even as the multimillionaire money manager tries to convince a federal judge to allow him to await a sex trafficking trial from the comfort of the same $77 million Manhattan mansion where he’s accused of luring teenage girls into unwanted sex acts.
Following Epstein’s arrest Saturday in New Jersey, four women have reached out to New York lawyer David Boies, and at least 10 other women have approached other lawyers who have represented dozens of Epstein’s alleged victims in the past.
Jack Scarola, a Palm Beach attorney, said at least five women, all of whom were minors at the time of their alleged encounters with Epstein, have reached out to either him or Fort Lauderdale lawyer Brad Edwards.
“The people we are speaking to are underage victims in Florida and in New York. They are not individuals whose claims have previously been part of any law enforcement investigation,’’ Scarola said.
The new accusers are surfacing as Epstein’s attorneys argue their client is being tried on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges that for the most part were resolved years ago in Palm Beach. His legal team filed a motion Thursday for pre-trial release arguing that Epstein has maintained a “spotless” record since prosecutors in South Florida set aside a federal sex trafficking investigation a decade ago and allowed him to plead guilty to lesser state charges.
Epstein’s attorneys want Senior U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman to free Epstein from his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan and allow him to await trial from the $77 million Upper East Side mansion where prosecutors say he abused dozens of girls from 2002 through 2005.
Epstein, ahead of a Monday bond hearing, has offered to waive extradition rights and put up his Manhattan home and private jet as collateral. He also said he would consent to GPS monitoring, ground his jet, “demobilize” all his cars in New York and have trustees live in his home. And his brother, Mark Epstein, offered to put up his West Palm Beach home.
But New York prosecutors — who say they found “an extraordinary volume of photographs of nude and partially nude young women and girls” while executing a search warrant at his Manhattan residence last weekend — have already argued that he’s likely to either flee the country or add to what they say are dozens of victims as young as 14 from New York to Palm Beach.
“I don’t care if he gives up his license and his jet, he still has the wherewithal to take off any time,” said Spencer Kuvin, a Palm Beach attorney who represents three Epstein accusers. “Think about it — if he was a plumber in Queens, do you think the judge would say ‘Yeah, let’s give him an ankle bracelet and send him home?’ ’’
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
Local Reporting Makes a Difference
In her year-long investigation of Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims of abuse and revealed the full story behind the sweetheart deal cut by Epstein’s powerhouse legal team.
Since the Herald published ‘Perversion of Justice’ in November 2018, a federal judge ruled the non-prosecution agreement brokered by then South Florida U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta was illegal, Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in New York state, Acosta resigned as U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell.
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The hearing over whether to release Epstein, 66, will be the first in what should be a lengthy and highly watched trial.
Prosecutors say they have information that Epstein recruited and paid dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s to give him massages that became sexual assaults in his Manhattan and Palm Beach homes. The Miami Herald’s investigative series last November, Perversion of Justice, detailed how Epstein allegedly paid girls more if they recruited other girls to come to his homes, creating a sexual pyramid scheme.
But Epstein’s attorneys argued in their motion Thursday that Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was attempting to illegally and unconstitutionally prosecute their client over 14-year-old allegations that have already been resolved in South Florida.
Epstein signed a non-prosecution agreement a dozen years ago with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida after federal agents identified three dozen girls who were allegedly victimized by Epstein at his mansion in Palm Beach. He was allowed to plead guilty to two lesser prostitution-related charges and serve 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail, during which his valet picked him up six days a week and drove him to his West Palm Beach office for work release. He registered as a sex offender and paid restitution to the identified victims, but avoided a prepared 53-page federal indictment.
“The [non-prosecution agreement] immunized Mr. Epstein from five distinct potential federal charges that may have been committed by Epstein ... from in or around 2001 through in or around 2007,” Epstein’s attorneys wrote Thursday.
They said language in the agreement — signed into place under President Donald Trump’s current labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, when he was U.S. attorney for Southern Florida — clarifies that the terms of the deal apply “globally” to a yearlong federal investigation in South Florida, and therefore prevents federal prosecutors in New York from pursuing the same allegations.
Prosecutors haven’t responded in writing to the motion, at least not yet. But U.S. Attorney Berman, who has no relation to the judge, already argued in a letter to the magistrate who oversaw Epstein’s arraignment this week that New York case law has already deemed that his office is not bound by the terms of the South Florida agreement.
“It is well settled in the Second Circuit that ‘a plea agreement in one U.S. Attorney’s office does not, unless otherwise stated bind another,’ ” Berman wrote Monday, adding that the agreement expressly states that it pertains exclusively to prosecutors in South Florida.
Prosecutors and victims’ lawyers also believe that, given Epstein’s previous effort to intimidate victims and their families, it’s critical that the judge keep him behind bars and not grant him bail. He is facing up to 45 years in prison.
During the 2006-2007 probe in South Florida, federal agents considered charging Epstein with witness tampering because he used some of his employees to try to intimidate victims so that they wouldn’t cooperate with police, court records reviewed by the Herald show.
In one instance, a victim’s father told Palm Beach police that he had been followed by someone and forced off the road. He wrote down the car’s license plate number and police traced it to a private investigation company that had been hired by Epstein’s legal team, the police report about the incident said.
Epstein’s investigators also followed the then-Palm Beach police chief, Michael Reiter, and the lead detective in the case, Joe Recarey. Recarey said he was so concerned about the aggressive tactics Epstein was using that he would often switch vehicles in an attempt to throw them off.
“At some point it became like a cat-and-mouse game. I would stop at a red light and go. I knew they were there, and they knew I knew they were there. I was concerned about my kids because I didn’t know if it was someone that they hired just out of prison that would hurt me or my family,’’ Recarey told the Herald as part of its series on the case.
Recarey, who died shortly after he was interviewed by the Herald, said the victims, who were as young as 13, were scared to death of Epstein, and even more so because of the private investigators and defense lawyers who dug into every dark corner of their lives, and the lives of their brothers, sisters, parents and boyfriends.
“Jeffrey Epstein presents a very significant flight risk and I think that his proven pattern of intimidation of witnesses in the past is a strong indication there is reason to fear he would engage in the same kind of conduct again, particularly since he is facing now what amounts to life in prison,’’ Scarola said.
Scarola, though, thinks victims may have been comforted by the public appeal issued Monday by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, asking for more victims and witnesses to come forward (1-800-CALL-FBI). It’s not clear how many, if any, have responded to his plea, but Scarola said the message was clear that victims would be treated better in New York than they were in South Florida, where Epstein’s plea deal with federal prosecutors was kept secret from his victims.
A Miami federal judge recently ruled that prosecutors broke a law to protect victims’ rights in not alerting them to Epstein’s plea deal.
“I believe that there was a fairly effective message that was delivered by New York authorities that victims need not fear that they will be treated in the same way that victims had been treated in South Florida,’’ Scarola said.
Still, Kuvin, the Palm Beach attorney, said his clients are not convinced that New York federal prosecutors will be able to make their case against Epstein stick. One of them is cooperating with SDNY, he said, but the others are skeptical.
“They are ecstatic that he [Epstein] has been arrested but skeptical that anything is going to happen because of what they’ve been through before. They are thinking ‘prove it, I won’t believe it until I see it.’ ’’ Kuvin said.