Jeffrey Epstein Is Accused of Luring Girls to His Manhattan Mansion and Abusing Them

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Federal prosecutors appear to have resurrected a federal sex crimes case against the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein by focusing on accusations that he sexually assaulted girls at his mansion in Manhattan — more than a decade after a widely criticized plea deal shielded him from similar charges in Florida.

Federal prosecutors are expected to unseal the charges on Monday accusing Mr. Epstein, 66, of running a sex-trafficking operation that lured dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, to his Upper East Side home, according to three law enforcement officials.

He was arrested on Saturday at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, after arriving on a private flight from France, two law enforcement sources said. The sex trafficking charges carry a combined maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison.

The new charges are a stunning revival of a yearslong case against Mr. Epstein, who faced similar accusations involving girls who told the police they were brought to his mansion in South Florida and assaulted. That case unraveled in 2008 after Mr. Epstein was offered a secret plea deal by federal prosecutors, one of whom is now in President Trump’s cabinet.

In the era of #MeToo, Mr. Epstein’s case had remained stubbornly unresolved. For years, women have accused Mr. Epstein, in civil lawsuits and in complaints to the police, of preying on them when they were underage. Still, for more than a decade he was shielded from federal charges by his secret plea deal.

That will end on Monday, two law enforcement officials said.

Mr. Epstein is charged with using his vast network of contacts and associates to bring a constant stream of underage girls to his Manhattan townhouse, one law enforcement source said. He is accused of shuttling the girls between the townhouse and his home in Palm Beach, Fla., paying them in cash and urging them to recruit other underage girls to visit his home.

The girls were initially recruited to give him massages. But he frequently escalated the encounters into sex acts, a law enforcement source said, including groping and touching the girls’ genitals. This pattern continued from at least 2002 to 2005, the source said.

On Saturday, a neighbor near an East 71st Street home purchased by Mr. Epstein in the mid-1990s, took a photograph, reviewed by The New York Times, that showed F.B.I. agents and New York Police Department officers using a crow bar to force open the mansion’s tall wooden doors.

ImageA neighbor near an East 71st Street home purchased by Jeffrey Epstein in the mid-1990s took a photograph on Saturday, showing F.B.I. agents and New York Police Department officers forcing open the mansion’s doors.
CreditSteven M. L. Aronson

A spokesman for the United States attorneys office in Manhattan declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr. Epstein could not immediately be reached for comment.

Alleged victims of Mr. Epstein have previously described being assaulted at the Upper East Side residence. One of his accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, claimed in court documents that Mr. Epstein forced her to have sex with him at the mansion. She settled a separate lawsuit against Mr. Epstein in 2009.

Mr. Epstein had earlier been accused of maintaining a similar arrangement at his mansion in Palm Beach, after the parents of one of Mr. Epstein’s alleged victims approached the police there in 2005. That case ballooned rapidly, according to documents reviewed by the Miami Herald: Officials soon identified at least 36 potential victims.

In all, investigators found abuse dating back to 2001, with victims as young as 13. A subsequent investigation by the Herald identified more than 60 victims, and witnesses have testified in later civil cases that the number may have reached into the hundreds.

Federal prosecutors in Miami prepared a sweeping 53-page federal indictment against Mr. Epstein. But in 2008, it was abruptly shelved, after prosecutors negotiated a secret deal with Mr. Epstein’s lawyers. Prosecutors did not tell the victims about the deal they made with Mr. Epstein until after a judge approved it.

Instead of facing life in prison, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in state court and served about a year in a Palm Beach jail, though he was allowed to leave the facility six days a week, 12 hours a day on work-release privileges.

Mr. Epstein’s deal also shielded any co-conspirators who may have helped to arrange his sexual rendezvous and stayed in contact with his victims.

That deal was negotiated in part by Alexander Acosta, the former United States attorney in the Southern District of Florida, who now serves as Mr. Trump’s labor secretary. Mr. Acosta met privately with a lawyer for Mr. Epstein, and his office allowed the financier’s lawyers to dictate many of the plea deal’s terms, the Herald reported last year.

In February, a federal judge ruled that Florida prosecutors had broken the law in 2008 by not keeping Mr. Epstein’s victims informed of the plea deal. The Justice Department has also opened an inquiry into how the case was handled.

During the Florida investigation, Mr. Epstein retained an array of powerful lawyers, including the Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr, the former special counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.

The boldface names were not unusual for Mr. Epstein, who has been linked to a wide array of high-profile officials, celebrities and business moguls.

Mr. Clinton flew on Mr. Epstein’s private jet multiple times, according to flight records. Prince Andrew of Britain was a frequent social companion.

Mr. Trump, in 2002, told New York Magazine that Mr. Epstein was a “terrific guy.”

“He’s a lot of fun to be with,” he said at the time. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

The Upper East Side fortress was previously owned by Leslie Wexner, a business mogul whose companies include Victoria’s Secret. Mr. Wexner was the only known client of Mr. Epstein’s money management firm; he sold the house to Mr. Epstein in the mid-1990s.

In 2011, the New York Post reported that Mr. Epstein gave a party with Prince Andrew at the mansion after being released from the Florida jail.

Christina Goldbaum, Joseph Goldstein and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

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