Convicted sex offender and billionaire businessman Jeffrey Epstein was charged on Monday with the sex trafficking of dozens of underage girls, more than a decade after he avoided similar charges in Florida in a plea deal.
The latest charges accuse Epstein, 66, of luring girls as young as 14 years old to visit his mansion in Manhattan and estate in Palm Beach, Fla., for sex acts and then paying them hundreds of dollars each.
Court documents unsealed Monday allege that Epstein created and maintained a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls. The alleged conduct occurred from at least 2002 to 2005.
The indictment says Epstein worked with others, including associates and employees, who helped facilitate the alleged abuse. He is also accused of paying his victims to recruit other underage girls for sexual purposes.
So who is Epstein, and how did the wealthy financier — who is friends with some of the most powerful politicians and celebrities — allegedly create a sex trafficking ring? Here’s what you need to know.
Who is Jeffrey Epstein?
A one-time math teacher, Epstein is an American financier born and raised in Coney Island, N.Y. He began working at investment banking company Bear Stearns in 1976 before opening his own financial management firm called J. Epstein & Co. in 1982.
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Epstein only managed money for extremely wealthy clients who had a significant net worth of $1 billion or more, according to New York Magazine. He later changed his business’ name to the Financial Trust Company.
Epstein has kept his client list private, leaving the inner workings of his business open to much speculation.
Like his client list, the money manager largely kept a private profile and liked to remain out of the limelight, and as a 2002 New York Magazine article on Epstein said: “Nobody seems to know what the hell he is up to.”
Jeffrey Epstein’s previous charges
In 2005, Epstein first came under investigation by Palm Beach police after they received reports he had sexually abused minors in his Florida mansion.
According to court documents, Epstein had a Palm Beach home where underage girls were brought for what they were sometimes told were massage sessions, but which often turned into sexual encounters.
He allegedly had female fixers who would look for suitable girls, some local and others recruited from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world.
Epstein reached a nonprosecution deal in 2008 with then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta’s office to secretly end a federal sex abuse investigation involving at least 40 teenage girls that could have landed him behind bars for life.
Acosta is now U.S. President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Labour.
As part of his deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to lesser state charges, spent 13 months in jail, paid settlements to victims and registered as a sex offender.
Epstein’s best friend Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and daughter of the late publishing mogul Robert Maxwell, has been accused by those familiar with Epstein’s abuse of acting as his “madam” and recruiting girls for years.
Maxwell has never been charged with a crime and has denied allegations that she helped facilitate sex abuse.
Jeffrey Epstein has powerful friends
A 2003 Vanity Fair profile highlighted Epstein’s connections, including his friendship with former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The feature said Epstein flies celebrities, including Clinton and actor Kevin Spacey, on his Boeing 727.
Harvard law professor and author Alan Dershowitz, who has previously worked as Epstein’s lawyer, spoke highly of the sex offender and told Vanity Fair that “the only person outside of my immediate family that I send drafts to is Jeffrey.”
Epstein was also friends with Britain’s Prince Andrew, son of Queen Elizabeth II.
Speaking to New York Magazine in 2002, Trump, who has been associated with Epstein for years, said he is a “terrific guy.”
“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years,” Trump told the outlet at the time. “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. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
In the New York Magazine article, Maxwell and Epstein’s relationship is discussed, as sources familiar with the pair said their relationship is “mysterious.” Maxwell’s high-society connections were said to have lent “pizzazz” to Epstein’s profile.
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“Indeed, at a party at Maxwell’s house, her friends say, one is just as apt to see Russian ladies of the night as one is to see Prince Andrew,” the New York Magazine article said.
“The Oxford-educated Maxwell, described by many as a man-eater (she flies her own helicopter and was recently seen dining with Clinton at Nello’s on Madison Avenue), lives in her own townhouse a few blocks away. Epstein is frequently seen around town with a bevy of comely young women, but there has been no boldfaced name to replace Maxwell.”
In 2015, a woman named Virginia Roberts Giuffre filed a claim that alleged she was trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to powerful politicians, lawyers, academics and government leaders when she was underage, the Miami Herald reported.
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Maxwell publicly called Giuffre a liar, and in turn, Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation. The Miami Herald, along with other outlets, have requested that court documents from the ruling be unsealed, arguing that they are expected to show evidence that Epstein and Maxwell arranged for underage girls to sexually service powerful men.
A federal appeals court in New York ordered the unsealing of nearly 2,000 pages of records from the 2015 case on July 3, just days before the new charges against Epstein were laid.
Epstein, who now faces one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors, faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
According to Rosa Monckton, a British businesswoman and one-time friend of Epstein, the sex offender has layers to his personality.
WATCH: Dozens of girls as young as 14 are alleged to be victims of Epstein
“He’s very enigmatic,” Monckton, former C.E.O. of Tiffany & Co. in the U.K., told Vanity Fair in 2003.
“You think you know him and then you peel off another ring of the onion skin, and there’s something else extraordinary underneath. He never reveals his hand…. He’s a classic iceberg. What you see is not what you get.”
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters
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