Prosecutors say Epstein tried to tamper with witnesses after Herald published series

Just days after the Miami Herald published a series about how accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein manipulated state and federal prosecutors to obtain a lenient plea bargain, Epstein wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to two potential accomplices involved in his sex case from a decade earlier, federal authorities announced in a court filing Friday.

Epstein, 66, arrested by New York federal prosecutors last Saturday, faces a new indictment charging him with sex trafficking and conspiracy involving underage girls he allegedly sexually abused in 2002 and 2004 at his waterfront estate in Palm Beach.

The multimillionaire managed to obtain a non-prosecution agreement from federal prosecutors, which was filed in court in Florida in 2008. That agreement gave him and a number of others involved in his alleged sex trafficking operation immunity from federal prosecution. New York U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman resurrected the case, bringing in activities that occurred at Epstein’s townhouse in Manhattan, following publication of the Herald’s series, Perversion of Justice.

Friday’s filing by federal prosecutors, first reported by The New York Times, was part of an effort by Berman to persuade the judge in the case to deny Epstein bail. Epstein remains in jail in New York pending a bail hearing set for 10 a.m. Monday in federal court.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Georgia says it wants to interview the victims of Jeffrey Epstein, the Palm Beach-based serial abuser of underage girls whose federal non-prosecution agreement was deemed unlawful by a federal judge.

Berman, in a letter to the judge in the case, called Epstein’s lawyers’ bail proposal “woefully inadequate,’’ saying that it “seeks to diminish and demean the harm caused to the many victims of the defendant’s appalling sexual abuse.’’

One of the most disturbing aspects of Epstein’s behavior, Berman said, is his ongoing effort to try to intimidate and influence people who have information about his crimes.

As evidence of that, Berman said investigators recently learned that Epstein had paid significant sums of money in late 2018 to two alleged accomplices whose testimony with prosecutors could put him away for life.


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 Miami Herald’s three-part series was published near the end of November 2018. Berman said the government found that two days after publication, Epstein wired $100,000 from a trust account he controlled to an individual who had been named as a possible co-conspirator in his 2008 Florida non-prosecution agreement. Shortly thereafter, Epstein wired $250,000 from the same account to another person identified as a co-conspirator to Epstein’s sex trafficking operation, the court filing said.

“Neither of these payments appears to be recurring or repeating during the approximately five years of bank records presently available to the government. This course of action, and in particular the timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations,’’ Berman wrote to Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman, no relation to the prosecutor.

Under Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement, he was given federal immunity on possible sex trafficking charges. At the time, prosecutors had drawn up a 53-page draft indictment. In exchange, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to two minor prostitution charges in state court in Palm Beach County. He was sentenced to 18 months in the county jail, but served 13 months — most of it under a work release program in which he spent nearly all his waking hours in an office he set up in West Palm Beach.

One of the more unusual provisions of the agreement was a blanket immunity given to a number of his alleged co-conspirators — both named and unnamed. Only four of them were actually identified in the agreement: Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff and Nadia Marcinkova. Kellen, whose married name is Vickers, Ross and Groff were women who scheduled the girls who came to Epstein’s estate at all hours. According to court and police documents, Marcinkova participated in the sexual assaults as Epstein stage-managed the encounters.

The prosecutor did not name the alleged co-conspirators who were wired money.

The conspiracy allegation against Epstein indicates that others could be charged with crimes as part of a superseding indictment.

Monday’s indictment refers to three unidentified “employees’’ who helped Epstein but does not name them.

The Miami Herald’s attempts to obtain a comment from Epstein’s legal team were unsuccessful.

Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.

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