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What we know so far: Jeffrey Epstein's death and the case that was building against him

The billionaire was due to go on trial before his death on Saturday.

Jeffrey Epstein who was found dead on Saturday in a Manhattan jail cell.
Jeffrey Epstein who was found dead on Saturday in a Manhattan jail cell.
Image: AP

ACCUSED SEX TRAFFICKER Jeffrey Epstein faced serious charges over the alleged abuse of dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s before his death at the weekend. 

The disgraced financier was due to go on trial next year for one charge of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit the same crime. He could have received up to 45 years in prison. 

His death is now being investigated by the FBI and the US Department of Justice.  

Who was Jeffrey Epstein?

Jeffrey Epstein was a wealthy hedge fund manager who was known to socialise with renowned figures including Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Duke of York Prince Andrew. 

His first finance job was in an investment banking company Bear Stearns in 1976 but the source of his vast wealth has never been fully disclosed but prosecutors said in July that he was worth more than $500 million (€448 million).  

He owned a 100-acre private island in the Caribbean and homes in New York, Paris, Miami and New Mexico. His New York mansion was one of the largest in Manhattan.  Before his death on 10 August, he was facing charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy. He had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of solicitation of prostitution of a minor in 2008 and was a registered sex offender. 

He had been arrested on 6 July this year in New York and was in a Manhattan jail awaiting trial without bail at the time of his death. 

What is the timeline of his crimes?

The indictment against Epstein alleges that he sexually exploited and abused dozens of girls aged under 18 in his various homes and other locations.

It says that Epstein “enticed and recruited” these girls to engage in sex acts during the period of 2002 to 2005. After the acts, he would give the minors hundreds of dollars in cash. 

However, this year is not the first time these crimes have been investigated. 

In 2005, a 14-year-old girl and her parents alleged that Epstein had molested the minor in his Florida home, according to Business Insider

A 53-page indictment was prepared by the US Attorney’s office in 2007 based on various allegations from minors. However, a plea deal was negotiated between Epstein’s legal team and then-US Attorney for Florida Alexander Acosta, according to the Miami Herald

Acosta served as the US Secretary of Labour until his resignation in July 2019 following criticism of how he handled this plea deal

In June 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of solicitation of prostitution with a minor as part of a non-prosecution agreement. The deal struck ceased an ongoing FBI probe into further victims and granted immunity to ”any potential co-conspirators” who were also involved in the crimes. 

As part of the deal, he served 13 months in a work-release programme. He was also required to make payments to victims involved and register as a sex offender.  

In November 2018, the Miami Herald reported allegations from dozens of women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein between 2001 and 2006. 

The paper reported that court documents detailed the former billionaire paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages during which he would subject them to abuse.

Some victims were paid additional sums for recruiting other young girls for Epstein. 

At the time of his arrest in July for sex trafficking charges, prosecutors said they found pictures of nude and partially nude young women at Epstein’s house in Manhattan. 

The indictment against Epstein says he “created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit”. 

The victims were said to be as young as 14 at the time of the abuse in the early 2000s.

Epstein allegedly intentionally sought out minors and knew that many were under 18.

The “massages” were performed nude or partially nude and would typically involve one or more sex acts. 

NY: Epstein Townhouse Now Tourist Attraction Jeffrey Epstein's house in Manhattan. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

A lot of the cases of abuse took place in Manhattan, but Epstein allegedly created a similar network in Florida.

He frequently travelled between the two houses during the period of 2002 to 2005 and his recruiters would allegedly arrange for girls to come to the house during his visits to Florida. 

The indictment refers to unnamed employees who allegedly played a crucial role in the accused crimes.

It is said that they received payments to arrange massages that led to sex acts between young girls and Epstein. 

“Through these victim recruiters, Epstein gained access to and was able to abuse dozens of additional minor girls,” the indictment states.

The recruiters were said to generally seek out economically disadvantaged girls from Palm Beach County neighbourhoods, according to AFP.

Epstein’s former girlfriend, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, was described in accuser Sarah Ransome’s 2017 lawsuit as the “highest-ranking employee” of Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking enterprise.

She is said to have trained the recruiters, developed plans for recruitment and helped conceal the activity from law enforcement. 

One of Epstein’s recruiters, Haley Robson, told police that Epstein once gave out to her for bringing a 23-year-old recruit to his home. 

“He told her the younger the better,” a detective wrote in a Palm Beach Police Department report.

In an interview with the New York Times last year, Epstein allegedly said that criminalising sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and compared it to homosexuality being considered a crime for many years.  

Epstein’s attorneys insisted that he had not had any illicit contact with underage girls since serving his sentence in Florida. 

He was denied jail by a judge in July who ruled that he might flee the country if released.

The judge also said that Epstein was a danger to the public due to his “uncontrollable” urges to engage in sexual conduct with underage girls. 

A trial date for June 2020 was requested by prosecutor Alison Moe. Epstein was due to remain in prison until the trial.  

Sexual Misconduct Epstein Jeffrey Epstein appearing in court in 2008. Source: AP

How did he die?

The 66-year-old was found unresponsive in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan at around 6.30am (2.30am Irish time) last Saturday, 10 August.

Staff tried to revive him before he was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

He was being held without bail at the time of his death and faced up to 45 years in prison for the charges. The FBI and the Office of the Inspector General at the US Department of Justice are investigating his alleged death by suicide. Federal authorities in the US intensified inquiries into the case on Tuesday. 

What has been uncovered about his death?

A variety of conspiracy theories have been circulating since his death. US President Donald Trump retweeted a conservative actor and comedian who suggested that Epstein’s death could be linked to Bill Clinton.

Outside the conspiracy theories, however, there have been concerns raised over the standard of practice at the Manhattan Correctional Centre where Epstein was held.

Epstein had been on 24-hour suicide watch for a period in July after being found unconscious with bruises on his neck from an alleged suicide attempt. He had been taken off that watch at the end of July and returned to the jail’s special housing unit.

There were still supposed to be checks on his cell every 30 minutes. 

Investigators have learned that these checks weren’t done for several hours before Epstein was found on Saturday.  

On Wednesday, it was reported that guards at the Manhattan jail were suspected of logging false entries of checks on inmates in Epstein’s unit every 30 minutes.

The guards in Epstein’s unit were also working overtime shifts at the time of his death, according to Associated Press. Two guards have been placed on leave and federal investigators are looking into whether or not they were sleeping on the job.

One of the guards on duty the night before the financier’s death was also allegedly not a regular correctional officer, according to the Associated Press.

Staff shortages in the jail left gaps in Epstein’s supervision, according to the union for the facility’s employees

At the time of his death, Epstein had no cellmate which was against protocol at the prison.  

Defence attorney for Epstein Marc Fernich said jail officials “recklessly” put Epstein in harm’s way. 

The US Justice Department said that two guards who were assigned to watch Epstein at the time of his death have since been placed on administrative leave. The warden at the jail has also been temporarily reassigned to an office post while investigations are ongoing.   

An autopsy was performed last Sunday but investigators are still awaiting further information.   

What will happen to the sex trafficking case now?

On Monday, US Attorney General William Barr said this was an important case and co-conspirators involved will now be looked into.

“Let me assure you this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it,” said Barr.  

Epstein’s death came a day after a court released documents in which one of his alleged victims said she was forced to have sex with American political and business personalities.  

Authorities are expected to contact the team of recruiters and employees who police reports say lined up underage girls for Epstein. FBI agents reportedly raided Epstein’s Caribbean island on Monday after his death. 

- with reporting from Associated Press and © – AFP 2019 

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