Federal prosecutors in New York on Monday unsealed a criminal indictment charging multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein with having operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls.
But the allegations of sexual misconduct against him aren’t anything new – they first emerged over a decade ago. Here’s how they’ve been treated in the years since they first emerged.
Former US Attorney’s ‘deal of a lifetime’
Epstein, 66, is accused of running a trafficking enterprise between 2002 and 2005, allegedly paying hundreds of dollars in cash to girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach, according to the indictment. He allegedly worked with employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences and paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.
He has pleaded not guilty, and is charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
Epstein had previously evaded similar charges when he secured a nonprosecution deal with federal prosecutors in Miami more than a decade ago.
US Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s handling of the plea agreement is being held up by critics as an example of how rich and politically connected men accused of sexual misconduct have been able to elude scrutiny and justice.
The former US attorney has defended his handling of the case and tweeted that he is pleased “prosecutors are moving forward.”
Acosta maintained Wednesday that he secured the best deal he could when he helped prosecute Epstein, but acknowledged the terms look lenient with the passage of time. He stopped short of apologizing for – or even saying that he regretted – his handling of the case.
The once-secret deal covered not only Epstein but also four women who victims allege were involved in his sex trafficking scheme. Court filings reveal Epstein was also under investigation for potential witness tampering after one of his private investigators allegedly forced a victim’s father off the road.
Epstein instead pleaded guilty to two state prostitution charges in 2008 and served just 13 months in prison. He also registered as a sex offender and paid restitution to the victims identified by the FBI.
That arrangement came under scrutiny last November in a Miami Herald investigation.
The Herald said Acosta gave Epstein the “deal of a lifetime” despite a federal investigation identifying 36 underage victims. The agreement, the Herald said, “essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe” and further granted immunity to “any potential co-conspirators” in the case.
In February, a federal judge in Florida ruled that the Department of Justice broke the law by failing to confer with Epstein’s victims about the agreement.
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who’s a member of the Judiciary Committee, said at the time that he had received a letter from the Justice Department informing him that its Office of Professional Responsibility had “opened an investigation into allegations that Department attorneys may have committed professional misconduct” in their handling of the plea deal reached between Acosta, then the US attorney in Miami, and Epstein.
In a statement Thursday, Sasse called for the Justice Department to re-examine Epstein’s deal.
The federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act requires that victims be consulted about plea bargains and deferred prosecution agreements.
Some of Epstein’s associates allegedly involved
Court documents unsealed this week described a predatory pattern in which girls were taken to a room in Epstein’s New York mansion to perform “massages.”
The girls were instructed by him or his associates to perform such duties nude or partially nude, according to the indictment. Epstein would escalate the encounter to “include one or more sex acts.”
The indictment also implicates some Epstein employees.
One person referred to as “Employee-1” called girls who had previously been lured into encounters to arrange future visits to his New York residence.
When Epstein would travel by private jet from New York to Palm Beach, an employee or associate would “ensure that minor victims were available for encounters upon his arrival in Florida,” according to the indictment.
Epstein or his associates would pay each girl a sum in cash, and if a girl lured others to his residences, he would pay both the “victim-recruiter” and the new girl hundreds of dollars, according to the indictment.
A report filed in July 2006 by the Palm Beach Police Department described an assistant of Epstein who escorted a young woman to a room with a massage table. The same female assistant would enlist another young woman to arrange for female visitors when Epstein traveled to Palm Beach, according to the police report.
Another young woman told police in October 2005 she was “paid and instructed to have sex” with Epstein’s female assistant, according to a police report. The woman told police that Epstein once apologized after forcing her to have sex with him and bought her a car for her use, the report said.
A house manager at Epstein’s Florida home told detectives that the multimillionaire would have two massages a day – one in the morning, another in the afternoon, according to one of the 2006 police reports.
The house manager never asked the girls their ages, but “felt they were very young,” the report said. He called himself Epstein’s “human ATM machine” and had been instructed to keep at least $2,000 in cash on him at all times.
He’d give money to the girls after the massages and reported the payouts to Epstein, according to the report. The house manager told police he would clean the bedroom after the massages and “discover massager/vibrators and sex toys scattered on the floor,” the report said.