Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier previously convicted as a sex offender, was arrested Saturday on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges over allegations that he paid girls as young as 14 for sex and used them to recruit other young girls between 2002 and 2005.

A criminal indictment unsealed Monday in Manhattan federal court claims Epstein sexually exploited dozens of minor girls starting in 2002. Epstein is said to have abused girls in his homes in both New York and Palm Beach, Fla. At both locations, Epstein recruited victims to give him “massages” that quickly turned sexual, prosecutors said. Epstein paid his victims hundreds of dollars in cash, according to the indictment.

Epstein, 66, allegedly sought out minors and was aware that many of his victims were under 18 because “in some instances, minor victims expressly told him their age,” prosecutors wrote.

“Moreover, and in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment. “In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach.”

Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking on Monday. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 45 years if convicted.

“The alleged behavior shocks the conscience,” said Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, during a press conference on Monday in which he detailed the allegations against Epstein. The Public Corruption Unit of U.S. Attorney’s Office is handling the case, with assistance from the FBI and the human trafficking officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The arrest comes as Epstein recently received increased scrutiny surrounding a lenient plea deal he struck in 2008 after being accused of sexually abusing underage girls that allowed him to avoid federal prosecution.

Here’s what to know about the sex crimes case against Epstein.

Who is Jeffrey Epstein?

After starting out as a math teacher at Dalton School in New York City, Epstein worked at investment bank Bear Stearns for six years until he opened his own firm, J. Epstein and Co., in 1982 to manage funds for very wealthy clients.

Epstein’s wealth and the source of his money became difficult to track after he opened his own firm. But it went far—Epstein owns properties in Palm Beach; Stanley, N.M. and Paris, along with a private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, prosecutors said. And then there’s his $77 million New York City mansion, which is the largest townhouse in Manhattan, according to the New York Times. J. Epstein and Co.’s offered services to people with assets of more than $1 billion.

He has conducted his business from the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for tax reasons and has owned the island Little St. James for more than 20 years.

Epstein’s wide circle of friends included President Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and former President Bill Clinton, who flew on his private jet more than two dozen times, according to flight logs.

Trump told New York magazine in 2002 that Epstein was “a lot of fun to be with.”

“It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side,” he said.

That same New York story on Epstein described him as a “mysterious, Gatsbyesque figure.” One investment banker said of Epstein: “He likes people to think that he is very rich, and he cultivates this air of aloofness. The whole thing is weird.”

Another banker said he was like the Wizard of Oz. “There may be less than meets the eye,” the person told New York.

What are the new allegations against Epstein?

The Miami Herald, which in November published a deep investigative report into how Epstein avoided federal prosecution in 2008, reports that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan was investigating Epstein for months prior to unsealing the indictment. According to the Herald, the indictment included new victims and witnesses who came forward in the last several months to speak with officials in New York.

Now, Epstein faces one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The current case focuses on victims who were allegedly abused in his New York mansion and Palm Beach estate and looks at his allegedly predatory behavior over the four-year period between 2002 and 2005. An attorney for Epstein did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors alleged in the indictment that Epstein would lure girls to both properties under the guise that they would provide him “massages,” that would “become increasingly sexual in nature.”

Epstein is accused of paying girls hundreds of dollars after the sexual encounters and creating a network where minors were always available to him by paying his victims to recruit other girls. According to the indictment, Epstein’s employees also scheduled the sexual encounters and recruited girls.

“This allowed Epstein to create an ever-expanding web of new victims,” Berman told reporters on Monday.

Federal agents recovered “nude photographs of what appeared to be underage girls” when they executed a search warrant at Epstein’s mansion in New York on Saturday, Berman said.

Epstein will remain in jail for at least one week after his bail hearing was moved to Monday, July 15.

How did Epstein strike a plea deal in 2008?

Epstein’s arrest comes a little more than a decade after he struck a plea deal that allowed him to plead guilty to lesser state charges after he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls at his Palm Beach home.

By avoiding federal prosecution, Epstein was sentenced to just 18 months in prison after he pled guilty on two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor. Of that sentence, Epstein served only 13 months and was allowed to spend six days a week at an office for 12 hours a day under a work-release privilege. He was also required to register as a sex offender and reach financial settlements with the dozens of victims who came forward in the case.

The now-infamous deal was overseen by Alexander Acosta, Trump’s current Secretary of Labor, whose actions on the case was detailed in a Miami Herald series last year. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra of Florida said he is considering invalidating the deal, noting that Epstein’s victims should have been consulted about it under federal law.

Because Epstein’s prior guilty plea involved state crimes, the current case can avoid double jeopardy because it involves federal crimes, the Associated Press reports. Epstein’s lawyers argued in court Monday that the new charges would involve allegations that were brought up in the Florida case.

Acosta, who has been criticized for how he handled the case, has defended himself, saying the plea deal was appropriate at the time. The White House said earlier this year that it would look into how he oversaw the deal.

Article from: https://time.com/5621911/jeffrey-epstein-sex-trafficking-what-to-know/