Netflix just released Filthy Rich, a four-part docuseries detailing the elaborate web of influence, blackmail, and wealth used by Jeffrey Epstein and his associates to evade justice as he ran an international sex trafficking ring. Based on the 2016 book Filthy Rich by James Patterson, the series makes the stories of the women, many of whom were young girls at the time, the primary focus. It took years and innumerable accounts from survivors to finally arrest Epstein for sexual abuse and paying underage girls for sex in 2019. According to a criminal indictment unsealed in a Manhattan federal court last year, his final arrest was based on allegations dating back to 2002; however, the first accusations against Epstein go back much further than that.
Two sisters, Maria and Annie Farmer recall encounters with Epstein and his long-time partner Ghislaine Maxwell as far back as 1996. Both sisters are key interviews in Filthy Rich and are integral in establishing the length of time Epstein was able to continually elude the consequences of his alleged actions.
It was another nine years before investigators began delving into Epstein’s background. Their reports, made over 20 years ago, are the earliest known allegations against Epstein. Since then, other women have come forward with accusations of rape and child abuse involving Epstein at his properties in Palm Beach, New York City, and his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many of them were brought to these various locations under the guise that they were being hired to give Epstein massages.
Maria moved to New York in 1993 to enroll at the New York Academy of Art and pursue a career as a painter. She claims she met Epstein at a gallery show for her graduation through Eileen Guggenheim, then the dean of the academy (an investigation by a private firm commissioned by the New York Academy of Arts on June 17, 2020, appears to refute claims of Guggenheim's involvement). According to Farmer's account given to The New York Times, Epstein later called her to offer her a job acquiring art on his behalf.
Maria later also managed the entrance to Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse. In the employ of Epstein, Maria recounts seeing girls and young women come to the house for what Maxwell described as modeling auditions for Victoria’s Secret. Maxwell has been named by multiple women who allege that she was complicit in Epstein’s crimes and played an important role in recruiting and grooming young women and girls for Epstein. (Maxwell has denied any involvement and maintains her innocence in the face of accusations about her alleged conduct alongside Epstein.)
Around this time, Maria mentioned to Epstein that her sister Annie was looking to go to college. Epstein offered to help and brought Annie, then 16-years-old, to visit New York. He later invited her to his New Mexico ranch for a weekend. The Farmer sisters’ mother, Janice Swain, allowed Annie to go under the impression that other students were going and that Maxwell would be chaperoning. But when Annie arrived in New Mexico, it was just her, Epstein, and Maxwell. During this trip, Annie claims she was subjected to a troubling topless massage from Maxwell.
In the summer of 1996, Maria stayed at Epstein’s estate in Ohio to focus on her painting. Epstein and Maxwell reportedly paid her a visit later in the summer. Maria recalls Epstein asking for a foot massage before inviting her to sit on the bed while he watched television. Maxwell allegedly joined them on the bed and that’s when Maria claims things took a sudden turn. Both Epstein and Maxwell allegedly began aggressively groping Maria who feared she was about to be raped. She fled the room and barricaded herself in another part of the house, Maria recalls.
Like many of the women who spoke out in Filthy Rich, the Farmer sisters came forward about their experiences with law enforcement and news outlets in the hope that Epstein would see justice. Maria says she contacted the New York Police Department in 1996, then the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She offered to share everything she knew about Epstein and the constant stream of young women and girls being brought to Epstein’s houses. According to the NYT, the FBI has never acknowledged speaking to Maria in 1996, though she believes they had to have some record of it because — years later — FBI agents came back to her with questions. Maria said she also went to leaders in the New York art world and she and her sister tried to tell their story to a national magazine. In each instance, nothing came of their reports.
In 2003, the Farmer sisters tried again to tell their story when Vicky Ward, a reporter for Vanity Fair, told them she was working on a story about Epstein’s convoluted finances that would also speak to the billionaire financier’s penchant for young girls. However, when the article was published, the Farmers' story was not mentioned. Years later, Ward tweeted that she believed her editor, Graydon Carter, succumbed to pressure from Epstein to leave that part of the story out. John Connolly, a former contributing editor at Vanity Fair, claimed to the NYT that he recalled Carter talking about Epstein’s attempts to influence the article.
FBI agents approached Maria in November 2006 — 10 years after her initial report — after new allegations surfaced that spurred an extensive investigation that uncovered a number of young girls who had been recruited to come to Epstein’s Palm Beach property. The investigation progressed, but any hope of federal prosecution was quashed when Epstein was given a plea deal in 2008 that allowed him to admit to only one count of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. He served 13 months of an 18-month prison sentence, largely on day release.
It wasn’t until July 2019 that Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. Production on Filthy Rich had been underway for nearly nine months prior to his arrest, reports Time. Had Epstein not met with an untimely death while in prison awaiting trial, the Farmer sisters and the other women who spoke out for the series intended Epstein to have to answer for his alleged crimes. While Epstein may never have to face his day in court, Filthy Rich is an opportunity for these women to tell their side of the story.
Filthy Rich is now streaming on Netflix.
Update: This story has been changed to include the recent results of a new investigation, commissioned by the New York Academy of Arts, into the Farmer sisters' claims about Eileen Guggenheim.