- Financier Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. He was denied bail ahead of his trial.
- Epstein died while in jail, and his death was officially ruled a suicide by the New York City medical examiner.
- Epstein was a convicted sex offender who previously served 13 months in a Palm Beach county jail, had a high-profile social circle. His former associates include Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and Queen Elizabeth's son Prince Andrew.
- In July 2020, his ex-girlfriend and longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested on charges relating to Epstein's sex trafficking operation.
On July 8, 2019, federal prosecutors charged financier Jeffrey Epstein with one count of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Following the indictment, Epstein pleaded not guilty on both charges. He was denied bail and remained in jail until August 10, when several media outlets confirmed that Epstein had died by apparent suicide. But numerous questions still remain about Epstein's life, crimes, and fortune, some of which could be revealed in the new case against his longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who was arrested in July 2020.
Until then, here's what we do and don't know about him.
Who was Epstein?
Epstein started his career in New York City as a math teacher at the elite Dalton School, but in the 1970s, he went to work at the investment bank Bear Stearns before founding his own firm, J. Epstein and Co., in 1982. According to Vox, he specifically marketed his services to "those with assets worth more than $1 billion," and operated his company out of the U.S. Virgin Islands for tax reasons.
While Epstein appeared to be wealthy, living in a massive townhouse and giving large sums of money to a wide variety of causes and institutions, the source of his money is obscure. He has been widely called a billionaire, but Forbes disputes that claim, saying that he was more likely "worth a fraction of that." And when Epstein died, he was worth $577,672,654, according to a will signed just two days before his death.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a felony charge of solicitation of prostitution involving a minor, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison; he served 13, and was granted work release, which allowed him to commute to an office outside the jail six days a week. He also registered as a sex offender.
The plea deal came under renewed scrutiny last winter, after Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown published a series on Epstein, his victims, and the powerful people who advocated for him to receive a more lenient sentence over a decade ago.
Epstein died in his cell in mid-August.
On July 24, Epstein was reportedly found injured in his cell. Several weeks later, on August 10, he was found dead by apparent suicide, per the New York Times, and his death is being investigated by the FBI.
Here is the official statement regarding his death from the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
On Saturday, August 10, 2019, at approximately 6:30 a.m., inmate Jeffrey Edward Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell in the Special Housing Unit from an apparent suicide at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York, New York. Life-saving measures were initiated immediately by responding staff. Staff requested emergency medical services (EMS) and life-saving efforts continued. Mr. Epstein was transported by EMS to a local hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries, and subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff. The FBI is investigating the incident.
On Wednesday October 30, a forensic pathologist working for Jeffrey Epstein's brother Mark announced he believed that Epstein did not die by suicide. Dr. Michael Baden said on the morning TV show Fox & Friends that Mr. Epstein, 66, experienced a number of injuries that “are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation.”
What we know about the recent case against Epstein.
Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on July 6, after arriving back in the United States from France. He was charged by federal prosecutors the following Monday. Per the indictment, "over the course of many years, Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations."
His indictment also noted that that "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." The prosecution alleged that he sexually assaulted girls as young as 14 years old.
Federal prosecutors also searched his New York City home following his arrest. According to the New York Times, "During the search of his townhouse on Saturday, investigators seized photographs of nude underage girls."
Epstein pleaded not guilty. He was denied bail, and as mentioned above, he died by suicide in his cell before the trial.
Epstein's high-profile social circle only amplified the attention on this case.
Epstein was known to associate with politicians on both sides of the aisle (Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to name just two), numerous celebrities, and other people in the public eye.
“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” Trump told New York magazine in 2002. “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.”
Following the news of his recent arrest, Trump said he has distanced himself from Epstein in recent years. “I had a falling out with him," the President said, according to the New York Times. "I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you."
Former president Bill Clinton issued a public statement, acknowledging that he has ridden on Epstein's private plane, but that he was unaware of Epstein's criminal activity.
"President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York," reads the statement from a Clinton spokesperson.
"In 2002 and 2003, President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein’s airplane: one to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa, which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation."
Epstein also notably had ties to Queen Elizabeth's son Prince Andrew.
They met in 1999, and the extent of their relationship is somewhat unclear, but the two men were spotted walking together in Central Park in late 2010. At that point, Epstein was already a convicted sex offender.
In the months following Epstein's death, Prince Andrew has spoken out against him and his crimes in statements from Buckingham Palace.
One reads in full:
“The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes. His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent.”
In November, Prince Andrew also spoke about his relationship with Epstein with Newsnight, a conversation which journalist Emily Maitlis described as a "no holds barred interview."
They discussed how Prince Andrew first met Epstein (through Ghislaine Maxwell) and spoke about the times the royal stayed at Epstein's various properties. Prince Andrew also denied allegations that he had sex with one of Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, multiple times.
"I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady. None whatsoever," Prince Andrew said.
Additionally, Prince Andrew admitted that it was "wrong" to visit Epstein in New York City in 2010. But during that conversation, the Duke of York said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein, and he did not explicitly express sympathy for his former friend's victims.
Watch the full interview here:
Following enormous public criticism after the interview, Prince Andrew announced he was stepping back from his duties "for the foreseeable future."
"I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission," he wrote in a statement.
"I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure."
He also said he would be willing to speak with law enforcement. Read the full statement here.
In early December, Giuffre sat down for a TV interview of her own, in which she called Prince Andrew's responses to her allegations "BS."
"The people on the inside are going to keep coming up with these ridiculous excuses like his arm was elongated, or the photo was doctored, or he came to New York to break up with Jeffrey Epstein," she said.
"I mean come on. I'm calling BS on this because that's what it is. He knows what happened. I know what happened, and there's only one of us telling the truth, and I know that's me."
"I’m calling BS on this, because that’s what it is.”— Panorama 🌐 (@BBCPanorama) December 2, 2019
Prince Andrew says he has no recollection of meeting Virginia Giuffre, nor of any photo being taken with her and he emphatically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with her. pic.twitter.com/aqQ76kpPHI
Buckingham Palace has issued two statements in response to the program, the first of which is in regard to the Duke of York's association with Epstein. It's quite similar to previous statements issued by the royal family about their friendship, and reads:
“The Duke of York unequivocally regrets his ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein’s suicide left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims. The Duke deeply sympathises with those affected who want some form of closure. It is his hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. The Duke is willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."
The second statement focuses more specifically on Giuffre's allegations. It reads:
“It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”
Epstein's choice of causes reveal some of his disturbing beliefs.
Of the many causes to which Epstein donated, academic scientists were a notable subgroup. He apparently “dangled financing for their pet projects,” reports the New York Times, and attracted a distinguished group of acquaintances, including several Nobel laureates, to his home for parties and to scientific conferences he sponsored.
In meetings with these scientists he had discussed several of his own pet theories, including eugenics. The New York Times has uncovered that one ambition he discussed was to impregnate multiple women, thereby spreading his DNA. One account claimed his plan was for 20 women to bear his children, and that his ranch in New Mexico would be a base for this operation.
This may have been part of his interest in transhumanism, the study of how to improve the human population through technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence.
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