Florida

With Jeffrey Epstein locked up, these are nervous times for his friends, enablers

Jeffrey Epstein spent a second night in a New York jail cell Sunday, with a federal indictment expected to be unsealed Monday, charging him with sex offenses involving underage girls he and others allegedly trafficked in New York and Florida, sources have told the Miami Herald.

His Saturday arrest capped months of investigating, led by federal agents and prosecutors with the Southern District of New York’s Public Corruption Unit, assisted by investigators with the sex trafficking division. Although details of the case remain undisclosed, there are indications that others involved in his crimes could be charged or named as cooperating witnesses.

Among those potentially on the list: Ghislaine Maxwell, a 57-year-old British socialite and publishing heir who has been accused of working as Epstein’s madam; and Jean-Luc Brunel, who, according to court records, was partners with Epstein in an international modeling company.

Epstein, 66, was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday, as he arrived on his private jet from Paris, where he had been vacationing since June 14, aviation records show. About an hour after they picked him up, federal agents arrived at his imposing Manhattan townhouse, breaking down the door to execute search warrants.

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Ghislaine Maxwell was sued for slander after calling Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers, a liar. Maxwell, a close associate of Epstein, sought to have documents from the court case remain sealed.

The fact that search warrants were issued shows that federal investigators have new evidence against Epstein beyond the sex cases he was given federal immunity for in Florida in 2008, legal experts told the Miami Herald.

“They can’t take information from a case in 2002 or 2005 to get a search warrant today; there had to have been something for probable cause that contains evidence of a crime found now, so I’m interested in what that evidence is,’’ said Francey Hakes, a former federal prosecutor who once oversaw the Justice Department’s child exploitation crimes division.

Lawyers for Epstein’s victims, in court filings, have often likened Epstein’s sex operation to an organized crime family, with Epstein and Maxwell at the top, and below them, others who worked as schedulers, recruiters, pilots and bookkeepers.

For her part, Maxwell, whose social circle included such friends as Bill and Hillary Clinton and members of the British Royal family, has been described as using recruiters positioned throughout the world to lure women by promising them modeling assignments, educational opportunities and fashion careers. The pitch was really a ruse to groom them into sex trafficking, it is alleged in court records.

At least one woman, Sarah Ransome, claimed in a lawsuit that Maxwell and Epstein threatened to physically harm her or destroy any chance she would have of a fashion career if she didn’t have sex with them and others.

Maxwell has denied the claim and has never been charged.

Another woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, alleges she was recruited by Maxwell in 2000 when she was 16 years old. Giuffre was working as a spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s winter home and resort in Palm Beach at the time, court records show.

Trump, who lived less than a mile from Epstein’s waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, had also been friends with Epstein. Records show that he flew on Epstein’s private jet on occasion and attended parties and social events where he was photographed with Epstein.

Giuffre brought a civil defamation suit against Maxwell in 2015, after the Epstein associate called her a liar. It was settled two years later. But 2,000 pages of the previously sealed case file are expected to be made public in a few weeks, the result of litigation by the Miami Herald, and those records could prove damaging to Maxwell and others involved in Epstein’s alleged scheme.

“The one person most likely in jeopardy is Maxwell because the records that are going to be unsealed have so much evidence against her. She is in a particularly vulnerable position and will have an interest in cooperating, even though she may have missed that opportunity,’’ said lawyer David Boies, who represents Giuffre.

Boies said Brunel could also figure into Epstein’s prosecution because he has in the past offered to cooperate with investigators.

“Brunel has been one of these back-and-forth people for years. We interviewed Brunel more than four years ago and he promised to cooperate and then he didn’t, and he promised and didn’t. He was terrified of Epstein,’’ Boies said.

Giuffre claims that Epstein used the modeling agency, Mc2, to lure underage girls and in court papers said Epstein “deliberately engaged in a pattern of racketeering that involved luring minor children through Mc2, mostly girls under the age of 17, to engage in sexual play for money.”

Brunel has denied these claims, and says that Epstein was not a business partner or investor in his modeling company.

But Epstein’s arrest could open a window to expose other influential people who knew about or participated in his crimes. The question is what evidence or information does Epstein have against them and how might he use it?

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This widely published photo of Virginia Roberts Giuffre with Prince Andrew bolstered her claim that she was loaned out for sexual purposes to famous men by Jeffrey Epstein. Copy Photo Courtesy of Virginia Roberts

“This case is being handled by the public corruption unit, and those people don’t typically handle cases involving child exploitation, so there may very well be some bombshells here of other people’s involvement because their role could mean there was some official action that was corrupt or some official acted corrupt in some way,’’ Hakes said.

Monday’s first appearance is expected to be brief, with the actual indictment revealing little of substance. More crucial will be a bond hearing later in the week to decide whether Epstein can go free while awaiting trial.

The Epstein case drew scrutiny following an investigation published in November by the Miami Herald, called Perversion of Justice, that examined 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 Trump’s secretary of labor.

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Once a friend of presidents, the ultra-rich and the elite of Wall Street’s bankers — plus a major benefactor to Harvard University — Jeffrey Epstein handled portfolios estimated to be worth over $15 billion. Then he became ensnared in a scandal involving the sexual abuse of underage girls. He is seen here, pre-scandal, at left, in conversation with Alan Dershowitz, one of America’s best-known legal experts and a Harvard Law professor emeritus, at a Cambridge event. Dershowitz became a key member of Epstein’s legal team. Rick Friedman Corbis via Getty Images

As part of the series, the Herald examined tens of thousands of court documents, and identified more than 80 possible victims, most of whom were 13 to 16 years old.

In 2006 and 2007, the FBI confirmed that Epstein, who has homes in Manhattan, Palm Beach, New Mexico, Paris and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, sexually abused nearly three dozen girls at his Palm Beach mansion. He trained the girls to help recruit other young girls as part of an operation that operated like 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.

The Herald series also revealed that Acosta held an unusual one-on-one meeting with Epstein’s lawyer, Jay Lefkowitz, in October 2007, at a West Palm Beach Marriott. Records showed that it was at that meeting that Acosta acceded 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 configured so that no one — not even his victims — knew the details until nearly a year later. By that time, Epstein had already been released from jail and had returned to his jet-setting life.

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In February, a federal judge ruled that the deal was illegal because it violated provisions of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. That decision was the result of a federal lawsuit brought by two of Epstein’s victims who had been fighting to put him in prison for more than a decade.

Since the publication of Perversion of Justice, members of Congress have pushed for an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the non-prosecution agreement.

“Perhaps now Epstein’s victims will see real justice. But true accountability is still glaringly absent for Alex Acosta, who approved this serial pedophile’s permissive plea deal,” said U.S. Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat who has pushed for a reopening of the case. “If the DOJ will not adequately review and account for the miscarriage of justice that Acosta authorized, Congress must step in and provide that vigorous oversight.”

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Michael Reiter, who was police chief in Palm Beach, said he faced intense local pressure to go easy on Jeffrey Epstein. He refused, instead taking the case to the U.S. Justice Department. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

Among those who were involved early on in the criminal investigation was Michael Reiter, Palm Beach’s then-police chief, who was subjected to intense political pressure to ease up on Epstein. He and the lead detective, Joe Recarey, appealed to the FBI after the Palm Beach County prosecutor, Barry Krischer, indicated he wanted to charge Epstein only with minor crimes.

“Thankfully, the authorities in New York have the courage to investigate and prosecute Epstein in the way that should have occurred when the crimes were first reported in Florida over a decade ago,’’ Reiter said.

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