What You Need To Know About The Jeffrey Epstein Sex Trafficking Case

Photo: Rick Friedman Photography/Corbis/Getty Images.
Financier Jeffrey Epstein — a convicted sex offender and friend to powerful men such as President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew, Duke of York — was arraigned on two sex trafficking-related charges in Manhattan federal court on Monday. He pleaded not guilty.
Epstein's indictment, which was unsealed Monday morning, describes how the 66-year-old allegedly ran a sex trafficking operation and abused dozens of underage girls at his homes in New York City and Palm Beach, FL, for years.
"The victims described herein were as young as 14 years old at the time they were abused by Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, and were, for various reasons, often particularly vulnerable to exploitation," the indictment reads. "Epstein intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18."
Advertisement
Epstein faced similar charges more than a decade ago, but was able to strike up a shockingly lenient plea deal that allowed him to escape federal prosecution and potentially life in prison. The plea has been widely criticized, particularly following a Miami Herald blockbuster investigation by journalist Julie K. Brown, which looked into the extent of Epstein's depravity and how easily he got away with his crimes.
But following years of legal efforts by multiple accusers, it seems like Epstein's time is up. He was arrested Saturday at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport and if convicted, he faces up to 45 years in prison. Federal agents are hoping the case will allow more survivors and witnesses to come forward, and are asking people to call the 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) hotline if they have any information related to the case.
Ahead, everything you need to know about Epstein and the charges against him.

Who is Jeffrey Epstein?

Epstein founded his firm, J. Epstein and Co., in 1982 — and went on to become one of the top money managers in the world. A decade later, he became the owner of the largest private residence in Manhattan. He managed billions in clients' assets and soon became known for his philanthropic efforts, including a $30 million donation to Harvard University with the goal of creating a mathematical biology and evolutionary dynamics program.
Epstein's lawyers have previously claimed he is worth “more than nine figures,” but his exact net worth remains a mystery. One of the reasons is that details of his fortune have largely remained concealed from the public eye, in part because he has run his business out of the U.S. Virgin Islands since at least 1996 for tax purposes.
Advertisement

What is Jeffrey Epstein accused of?

Federal prosecutors allege that Epstein ran a sex-trafficking ring for years. According to his indictment, he lured underage girls, some as young as 14, to his New York and Florida residences under the premise that they would receive a cash payment in exchange for giving a massage. But prosecutors say that once it was time for the "massage," he would ask the girls to disrobe before abusing them. The indictment said Epstein "would escalate the nature and scope of physical contact with his victim to include, among other things, sex acts such as groping and direct and indirect contact with the victim's genitals." It adds: "Epstein typically would also masturbate during these sexualized encounters, ask victims to touch him while he masturbated, and touch victims' genitals with his hands or with sex toys."
After abusing the girls, Epstein would allegedly encourage them to bring him more girls to abuse in exchange for a finder's fee. Prosecutors also say that Epstein benefitted from the assistance of associates and employees. The indictment points at a New York-based employee, identified as "Employee-1," and two assistants, identified as "Employee-2" and "Employee-3," who allegedly facilitated Epstein's abuse by recruiting underage girls and scheduling their visits to his Manhattan and Palm Beach properties.

Why was Jeffrey Epstein arrested this time?

Momentum has been building following the Miami Herald investigation. The Southern District of New York’s public-corruption unit, with assistance from the district's sex-trafficking unit and the FBI, have been investigating Epstein for months, The Daily Beast reported. Prosecutors are also not worried about double jeopardy regarding Epstein's previous plea, meaning the charges likely involve new accusers and crimes, such as transporting victims across state lines between New York and Florida.
Advertisement

What is the Epstein-Acosta deal?

Palm Beach detectives began an investigation into Epstein after a woman reported to the authorities in March 2005 that a wealthy man had molested her 14-year-old stepdaughter. Police identified several alleged survivors and turned the case over to the FBI, which prepared a 53-page indictment against Epstein in 2007. The investigation by the Miami Herald details the same pattern outlined by Epstein's indictment: He had underage girls brought to his Palm Beach mansion for "massages," abused them, and then offered them money to recruit more girls. The publication was able to identify at least 80 survivors, although some believe the number might be much higher.
The financier ended up pleading guilty to charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution in 2008 after striking a deal with Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney in Miami, FL. Epstein agreed to serve 13 months in a private wing of a Palm Beach county jail and was granted a work release, which allowed him to go to his office for 12 hours a day, six days a week. There was also a "non-prosecution agreement" granting immunity to "any potential co-conspirators" — which would shield Epstein’s powerful associates from facing any consequences if they were involved in his crimes. Acosta, now President Trump's Secretary of Labor, also determined that the deal would be kept secret from the survivors, which blocked the young, abused women from challenging it in court.

Who are Jeffrey Epstein’s victims?

The victims in the indictment have not been publicly identified. However, several of them spoke publicly to the Miami Herald. "You can’t ever stop your thoughts," Jena-Lisa Jones, who said Epstein abused her when she was 14, told the outlet. "A word can trigger something. For me, it is the word 'pure' because he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I remember what he did to me in that room." Others dealt with drug addiction and spent time in prison. One died in 2018 following a heroin overdose.
Advertisement

How is Jeffrey Epstein connected to Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump?

According to a 2002 to New York magazine profile, Epstein "collected" powerful friends. "I invest in people — be it politics or science," he told the magazine at the time. "It’s what I do." Gawker published Epstein’s address book in 2015, which contained contacts of scores of politicians, celebrities, and wealthy people including Alan Dershowitz, President Trump, singer Courtney Love, actor Ralph Fiennes, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, actor Alec Baldwin, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, rightwing philanthropist David Koch, and many more.
In the early 2000s, Epstein also flew President Bill Clinton (who has himself been accused of sexual assault), actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Chris Tucker to tour AIDS prevention and treatment centers in Africa. He lent his private planes to Clinton repeatedly, including in 2002 and 2003, according to flight logs obtained by Gawker in 2015. The financier was also a supporter of the Clinton Foundation.
Epstein also used to be a regular at Trump's Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago. In the same 2002 New York profile, Trump said Epstein was someone who "enjoys his social life" and likes young women. "I've known Jeff for 15 years," Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by at least 21 women, said at the time. "Terrific guy. He's 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."
Advertisement

More from US News

R29 Original Series