More than a decade after receiving one of the most lenient sentences for a serial sex offender in U.S. history, multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested outside of New York, sources confirmed to the Miami Herald Saturday night.
Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, according to one of the sources. Flight records show he had just flown to Teterboro from Paris on Saturday.
Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, about a dozen federal agents broke down the door to Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse to execute search warrants, witnesses and sources said.
“We heard the loud banging and we walked over and saw all these FBI agents just pounding down the door,” a witness told the Herald.
Epstein, 66, is expected to be arraigned in federal court in New York on Monday on charges that he molested dozens of underage girls in New York and in Florida, the sources said. His arrest, first reported by the Daily Beast, comes nearly two weeks after the Justice Department announced that it would not throw out his 2008 non-prosecution agreement, even though a federal judge ruled it was illegal.
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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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Rumors had been circulating for months that Epstein was under investigation on sex charges in the Southern District of New York. It’s not clear what instances those investigations involved, and the Herald had not been able to confirm the status of the New York probe.
Sources said he was arrested by the FBI pursuant to a sealed indictment that will be unsealed on Monday. He is in custody in New York and a bail hearing is set for Monday.
“That bail hearing will be critical because if they grant him bail, he has enough money that he will disappear and they will never get him,’’ a source in New York told the Herald.
Last November, the Miami Herald published a series of stories, titled Perversion of Justice, that described the ways in which the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alexander Acosta, worked in conjunction with Epstein’s lawyers to engineer the non-prosecution agreement — and keep it secret from Epstein’s victims, so they could not object. Acosta is now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor.
Sources told the Herald that the indictment includes new victims and witnesses who spoke to authorities in New York over the past several months.
“Oh my God. Finally, finally, finally! Justice!’ said Michelle Licata, one of Epstein’s victims who was molested by him when she was 16 years old.
Epstein, who has homes in Manhattan, Palm Beach, New Mexico, Paris and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, sexually abused nearly three dozen girls, mostly 13-16 years old, at his Palm Beach mansion from 1999 to 2006, according to investigators. He used the girls to help recruit other young girls as part of an operation that ran similar to a pyramid scheme. He also had recruiters who helped with his appointments, scheduling as many as three or four girls a day, the FBI probe found.
Acosta met one-on-one with Epstein’s lawyer, Jay Lefkowitz, in October 2007, at a West Palm Beach Marriott. Records reviewed by the Herald showed that it was at that meeting that Acosta agreed to a non-prosecution agreement that gave Epstein and others involved in his operation federal immunity.
As part of the deal, Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to two state prostitution charges involving a 17-year-old girl, and he served 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail. The deal was sealed, however, so that no one — not even his victims — knew the details about the agreement until nearly a year later. By that time, Epstein had already been released from jail and had returned to his jet-setting life.
On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in New York ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of documents that are expected to show evidence relating to whether Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, were recruiting underage girls and young women as part of an international sex trafficking operation. Maxwell, 57, has never been charged.
The ruling came after the Herald — joined by a consortium of media companies, including the New York Times — asked that the records be opened. Two other parties, social media blogger Michael Cernovich and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, also sought to have some of the documents made public. Dershowitz, who represented Epstein during the 2006-2007 federal criminal probe, has also been accused of having sex with one of Epstein’s underage girls. Dershowitz has denied the allegation and has said that the records will clear him of any wrongdoing.
As part of its investigation, the Herald was able to identify nearly 80 girls who were molested by Epstein. Four of the victims, now in their late 20s and early 30s, spoke on video about how they were traumatized first by Epstein, then by his lawyers and private investigators, and finally by the prosecutors themselves, who disposed of the case without telling them.
One of the victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, said that she was forced by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with a number of wealthy and powerful politicians, academics and government leaders, including Dershowitz and Prince Andrew. She has never named the other men, largely because she has been afraid, her lawyers said.
In October 2017, as the #MeToo movement spurred a national conversation about the sexual harassment and abuse of women, the Herald had already begun examining the Epstein case. Earlier that year, following Acosta’s nomination as labor secretary, the Herald began to take a closer look at what role he played in Epstein’s controversial plea bargain. In the 10 years since Epstein’s case was closed by the FBI, about two dozen civil court cases had been filed, often alleging that Epstein’s sex crimes with underage victims were far more serious than prosecutors led the public to believe.
The vast trove of litigation included tens of thousands of pages of court pleadings, motions, appeals, depositions, hearing transcripts, judges’ decisions, witness and victim statements, as well as emails and letters between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s defense lawyers.
Besides sorting through volumes of court documents, the Herald also began the process of trying to locate Epstein’s victims — most of whom were labeled in court documents as Jane Does in order to protect their identities as minors. Many of the women said they had never told anyone of the abuse because they were too ashamed and already felt that the criminal justice system had failed them.
The Herald then set about obtaining 10 years of public records connected to the Epstein criminal cases. These included the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office files, the Palm Beach police files, and records from the Florida Department of Corrections, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Epstein’s primary residence is on Little St. James, an island off the coast of St. Thomas. Last year, he purchased a second larger island, Great St. James, where he has been clearing land in preparation for building. His plane records show that during the time he was abusing young girls, he was flying former President Bill Clinton, Harvard professors and administrators, Nobel-prize winning scientists, actresses, actors, philanthropists and a who’s who of wealthy and powerful people to his island.
His plane, nicknamed “the Lolita Express,’’ was also allegedly used to traffic women and girls from overseas, Giuffre told the Herald.
Miami Herald staff writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.