Who Was Jeffrey Epstein?
Jeffrey Epstein was a New York-based financier with high-profile ties to the world's ultra-wealthy and powerful. Accused of sexually abusing many underage girls, Epstein was finally caught and charged for soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida in 2008 and became a registered sex offender. Of his 18-month prison sentence, he served 13 months. In July 2019, Epstein was arrested again — this time on federal charges of sex-trafficking minors. While awaiting trial, he was found dead in his jail cell on August 10, 2019. The medical examiner concluded his death was by suicide, but a separate investigation prompted by Epstein's family suggests he may have been murdered.
Epstein was born on January 20, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. His mother, Pauline, worked part-time as a school aide, and his father, Seymour, was a groundskeeper for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Epstein, along with his younger brother Mark, were raised in a middle-class environment.
Remarkably bright, Epstein skipped two grades and graduated from Brooklyn's Lafayette High School at the age of 16. Although he enrolled at Cooper Union and later at New York University in the early 1970s, he never received degrees at either school.
Still, Epstein got a job teaching calculus and physics at the Dalton School, an Upper East Side prep school, in 1974. However, his employment was short-lived — he was fired two years later for "poor performance."
Before Epstein left his teaching job at the Dalton School, he was able to make an important connection with one of his student's parents, Alan Greenberg, the CEO of Bear Stearns. Impressed by Epstein's acuity with numbers, Greenberg gave him an assistant job at Bear Stearns in 1976 and from there, Epstein quickly climbed the ladder, eventually advising some of the company's wealthiest clients.
In 1981 Epstein left Bear Stearns and established his own financial consulting firm, Intercontinental Assets Group Inc (IAG) in which he helped clients recover embezzled money and also assisted clients who were embezzlers. It was around this time, he began telling friends and colleagues that he worked as an intelligence agent, a claim that has never been verified. However, his association with powerful businessmen who did deals with a variety of governments, as well as his extensive travels overseas in the mid-1980s, all pointed to the possibility that his claim could be true.
In 1987 Epstein began consulting for a collection agency called Tower Financial Corporation, which ended up being a half a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Epstein was said to be one of the masterminds behind the scheme, but he ended up getting away unscathed, leaving Tower a few years before it fell apart in 1993.
In 1988 Epstein set up J. Epstein & Company (which would later be renamed Financial Trust Company), a financial management firm that purportedly only served billionaires. It was during this time he became the financial advisor to billionaire Leslie Wexner, who was the CEO of L Brands and Victoria's Secret. Starting in the mid-1990s, he moved his company to the U.S. Virgin Islands to avoid paying taxes.
In the early 2000s, Epstein expanded his portfolio to include financing media companies, developing securities funding and investing in hedge funds and startups. He also created his own nonprofit, the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, to donate millions to institutions like Harvard University. To this day, no one has uncovered the various sources of his exceptional wealth.
With his net worth being touted in the billions (Forbes disputes this), Epstein lived a jet setter's life and mingled with the world's elite, which included President Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Kevin Spacey, Alan Dershowitz, President Donald Trump and Prince Andrew — the last of whom has been mired in controversy ever since a young woman (who was procured by Epstein) told the media she was forced to have sexual relations multiple times with the prince when she was a teenager, starting in 1999.
Epstein had reportedly provided underage girls and young women to his powerful friends and installed vast surveillance systems throughout his properties in New York, Palm Beach, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to record their sexual activities as a means of blackmail.
With his business operations set up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Epstein bought an adjacent 72-acre island called Little St. James for just shy of $8 million in 1998. It is alleged that this is where he operated his sex trafficking activities and where most of his pedophilic acts occurred. Some of the youngest girls who were trafficked onto the island were said to be 12 years old.
A believer in eugenics and transhumanism, Epstein bought a ranch near Stanley, New Mexico, where he intended to "seed the human race with his DNA" by inseminating at least 20 women, so reported an August 2019 article in the New York Times.
Other unconventional ideas Epstein adopted included his desire to freeze his head and penis, believing that genetic technology could bring them back to life someday.
Conviction and Arrests
In 2005 the parents of a 14-year-old girl told authorities in Palm Beach, Florida, that Epstein had sexually abused their daughter. Although the investigation eventually uncovered dozens of young women and minors who had allegedly been sexually abused by Epstein, he was ultimately charged on just two counts: soliciting a minor for prostitution and procuring minors for prostitution.
Cutting a "sweetheart deal" with Florida authorities, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to the felony prostitution charges. In 2008 he served 13 of his 18-month sentence in prison with a generous work release and was ordered to pay three dozen of his victims in restitution and register his name on the sex offender rolls.
It was later revealed that Alexander Acosta, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time, felt he had no choice but to offer the lenient deal to Epstein, because according to Acosta, he was told the financier was secretly working for the government.
However, Epstein wasn't untouchable. His luck ran out in July 2019 when authorities in Florida arrested him for suspicion of sex trafficking minors.
Pleading not guilty, he was denied bail and sent to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York City to await trial.
On July 23, 2019, Epstein was discovered with neck injuries in his cell and was placed on suicide watch.
Epstein's body was discovered in his jail cell at Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center on the morning of August 10, 2019. The circumstances surrounding his death were arguably suspicious: the guards had reportedly fallen asleep while on duty and failed to check on Epstein at the appointed times and the cameras monitoring his jail cell were not working.
The New York City medical examiner concluded Epstein committed suicide by hanging. Autopsy results showed that various neck bones were broken and among them, the hyoid bone, which is more commonly broken in homicidal strangulation cases.
Dissatisfied with the circumstances that led to the medical examiner's conclusion, Esptein's family hired their own pathologist who believed the evidence suggested he was more likely murdered.
Documentary: 'Filthy Rich'
In May 2020 Netflix released the four-hour documentary series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, which examines the lengthy list of alleged misdeeds and conspiracy theories surrounding the financier and features interviews with many of his accusers. According to director Lisa Bryant, filming began in 2018, with the project taking on additional urgency following Epstein's arrest and death the following summer.
"It really exposes how the American justice system is broken, and it was really built for power and political gain," Bryant told EW. "We wanted people to see that and be angry about it, and hopefully that can provoke change."
Arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell
On July 2, 2020, Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and ex-girlfriend of Epstein's, was arrested by the FBI in Bradford, New Hampshire. She was charged with six counts including transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and perjury. “Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them,” Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said. She pleaded not guilty and was denied bail later that month.
'Surviving Jeffrey Epstein'
Lifetime's two-night special Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, which premieres August 9 at 8/7c, investigates the billionaire New York financier who is alleged to have used his connections to the rich and famous to shield his predatory behavior with young girls. Revealing how Epstein set up a pseudo-sexual Ponzi scheme to bring in underaged girls, the doc delves into the aftermath the survivors are experiencing with no justice to be served.
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