How a fu­ture Trump Cab­i­net mem­ber gave a se­rial sex abuser the deal of a life­time

Jef­frey Ep­stein was cred­i­bly ac­cused of mo­lest­ing dozens of girls. Here’s the full story of how Alexan­der Acosta made the charges go away — and si­lenced the vic­tims, who are now speak­ing out.

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JULIE K. BROWN [email protected]­ami­her­

On a muggy Oc­to­ber morn­ing in 2007, Mi­ami’s top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, Alexan­der Acosta, had a break­fast ap­point­ment with a for­mer col­league, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., at­tor­ney Jay Le­fkowitz.

It was an un­usual meet­ing for the then-38-year-old pros­e­cu­tor, a ris­ing Repub­li­can star who had served in sev­eral White House posts be­fore be­ing named U.S. at­tor­ney in Mi­ami by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

In­stead of meet­ing at the pros­e­cu­tor’s Mi­ami head­quar­ters, the two men — both with pro­fes­sional roots in the pres­ti­gious Wash­ing­ton law firm of Kirk­land & El­lis — con­vened at the Mar­riott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Le­fkowitz, 44, a U.S. spe­cial en­voy to North Ko­rea and cor­po­rate lawyer, the meet­ing was crit­i­cal.

His client, Palm Beach mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Jef­frey Ep­stein, 54, was ac­cused of as­sem­bling a large, cult-like net­work of un­der­age girls — with the help of young fe­male re­cruiters — to co­erce into hav­ing sex acts be­hind the walls of his op­u­lent water­front man­sion as of­ten as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach po­lice found.

The ec­cen­tric hedge fund man­ager, whose friends in­cluded for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton,

Don­ald Trump and Prince An­drew, was also sus­pected of traf­fick­ing mi­nor girls, of­ten from overseas, for sex par­ties at his other homes in Man­hat­tan, New Mex­ico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.

Fac­ing a 53-page fed­eral in­dict­ment, Ep­stein could have ended up in fed­eral prison for the rest of his life.

But on the morn­ing of the break­fast meet­ing, a deal was struck — an ex­tra­or­di­nary plea agree­ment that would con­ceal the full ex­tent of Ep­stein’s crimes and the num­ber of peo­ple in­volved.

Not only would Ep­stein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment — essen­tially shut down an on­go­ing FBI probe into whether there were more vic­tims and other pow­er­ful peo­ple who took part in Ep­stein’s sex crimes, ac­cord­ing to a Mi­ami Her­ald ex­am­i­na­tion of thou­sands of emails, court doc­u­ments and FBI records.

The pact re­quired Ep­stein to plead guilty to two pros­ti­tu­tion charges in state court. Ep­stein and four of his ac­com­plices named in the agree­ment re­ceived im­mu­nity from all fed­eral crim­i­nal charges. But even more un­usual, the deal in­cluded word­ing that granted im­mu­nity to “any po­ten­tial co-con­spir­a­tors’’ who were also in­volved in Ep­stein’s crimes. These ac­com­plices or par­tic­i­pants were not iden­ti­fied in the agree­ment, leav­ing it open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion whether it pos­si­bly re­ferred to other in­flu­en­tial peo­ple who were hav­ing sex with un­der­age girls at Ep­stein’s var­i­ous homes or on his plane.

As part of the ar­range­ment, Acosta agreed, de­spite a fed­eral law to the con­trary, that the deal would be kept from the vic­tims. As a re­sult, the non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment was sealed un­til af­ter it was ap­proved by the judge, thereby avert­ing any chance that the girls — or any­one else — might show up in court and try to de­rail it.

This is the story of how Ep­stein, bol­stered by un­lim­ited funds and rep­re­sented by a pow­er­house le­gal team, was able to ma­nip­u­late the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, and how his ac­cusers, still trau­ma­tized by their pasts, be­lieve they were be­trayed by the very pros­e­cu­tors who pledged to pro­tect them.

“I don’t think any­one has been told the truth about what Jef­frey Ep­stein did,’’ said one of Ep­stein’s vic­tims, Michelle Li­cata, now 30. “He ru­ined my life and a lot of girls’ lives. Peo­ple need to know what he did and why he wasn’t pros­e­cuted so it never hap­pens again.”

Now Pres­i­dent Trump’s sec­re­tary of la­bor, Acosta, 49, over­sees a mas­sive fed­eral agency that pro­vides over­sight of the coun­try’s la­bor laws, in­clud­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing. Un­til he was re­ported on Thurs­day to be elim­i­nated, a day af­ter this story posted on­line, Acosta also had been in­cluded on lists of pos­si­ble re­place­ments for for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, who re­signed un­der pres­sure ear­lier this month.

Acosta did not re­spond to nu­mer­ous re­quests for an in­ter­view or an­swer queries through email.

But court records re­veal de­tails of the ne­go­ti­a­tions and the role that Acosta would play in ar­rang­ing the deal, which scut­tled the fed­eral probe into a pos­si­ble in­ter­na­tional sex traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tion. Among other things, Acosta al­lowed Ep­stein’s lawyers un­usual free­doms in dic­tat­ing the terms of the non­pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment.

“The dam­age that hap­pened in this case is un­con­scionable,” said Bradley Ed­wards, a for­mer state pros­e­cu­tor who rep­re­sents some of Ep­stein’s vic­tims. “How in the world, do you, the U.S. at­tor­ney, en­gage in a ne­go­ti­a­tion with a crim­i­nal de­fen­dant, ba­si­cally al­low­ing that crim­i­nal de­fen­dant to write up the agree­ment?”

As a re­sult, nei­ther the vic­tims — nor even the judge — would know how many girls Ep­stein al­legedly sex­u­ally abused be­tween 2001 and 2005, when his un­der­age sex ac­tiv­i­ties were first un­cov­ered by po­lice. Po­lice re­ferred the case to the FBI a year later, when they be­gan to sus­pect that their in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing un­der­mined by the Palm Beach State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice.

“This was not a ‘he said, she said’ sit­u­a­tion. This was 50-some­thing ‘shes’ and one ‘he’ — and the ‘shes’ all ba­si­cally told the same story,” said re­tired Palm Beach Po­lice Chief Michael Reiter, who su­per­vised the po­lice probe.

More than a decade later, at a time when Olympic gym­nasts and Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses have be­come a cat­a­lyst for a cul­tural reck­on­ing about sex­ual abuse, Ep­stein’s vic­tims have all but been for­got­ten.

The women — now in their late 20s and early 30s — are still fight­ing for an elu­sive jus­tice that even the pas­sage of time has not made right.

Like other vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault, they be­lieve they’ve been si­lenced by a crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem that stub­bornly fails to hold Ep­stein and other wealthy and pow­er­ful men ac­count­able.

“Jef­frey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were ba­si­cally home­less. He went af­ter girls who he thought no one would lis­ten to and he was right,’’ said Courtney Wild, who was 14 when she met Ep­stein.

Over the past year, the Mi­ami Her­ald ex­am­ined a decade’s worth of court doc­u­ments, law­suits, wit­ness de­po­si­tions and newly re­leased FBI doc­u­ments. Key peo­ple in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion — most of whom have never spo­ken be­fore — were also in­ter­viewed. The Her­ald also ob­tained new records, in­clud­ing the full unredacted copy of the Palm Beach po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion and wit­ness state­ments that had been kept un­der seal.

The Her­ald learned that, as part of the plea deal, Ep­stein pro­vided what the gov­ern­ment called “valu­able con­sid­er­a­tion” for un­spec­i­fied in­for­ma­tion he sup­plied to fed­eral in­vesti- ga­tors. While the doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Her­ald don’t de­tail what the in­for­ma­tion was, Ep­stein’s sex crime case hap­pened just as the coun­try’s sub­prime mort­gage mar­ket col­lapsed, ush­er­ing in the 2008 global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Records show that Ep­stein was a key fed­eral wit­ness in the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of two prom­i­nent ex­ec­u­tives with Bear Stearns, the global in­vest­ment bro­ker­age that failed in 2008, who were ac­cused of cor­po­rate se­cu­ri­ties fraud. Ep­stein was one of the largest in­vestors in the hedge fund man­aged by the ex­ec­u­tives, who were later ac­quit­ted. It is not known what role, if any, the case played in Ep­stein’s plea ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The Her­ald also iden­ti­fied about 80 women who say they were mo­lested or sex­u­ally abused by Ep­stein from 2001 to 2006. About 60 of them were lo­cated — now scat­tered around the coun­try and abroad. About a dozen of them agreed to be in­ter­viewed, on or off the record. Four of them were will­ing to speak on video.

The women are now moth­ers, wives, nurses, bar­tenders, Real­tors, hair­dressers and teach­ers. One is a Hol­ly­wood ac­tress. Sev­eral have grap­pled with trauma, de­pres­sion and ad­dic­tion. Some have served time in prison.

A few did not sur­vive. One young woman was found dead last year in a run­down mo­tel in West Palm Beach. She over­dosed on heroin and left be­hind a young son.

As part of Ep­stein’s agree­ment, he was re­quired to regis­ter as a sex of­fender, and pay resti­tu­tion to the three dozen vic­tims iden­ti­fied by the FBI. In many cases, the con­fi­den­tial fi­nan­cial set­tle­ments came only af­ter Ep­stein’s at­tor­neys ex­posed ev­ery dark cor­ner of their lives in a scorched-earth ef­fort to por­tray the girls as gold dig­gers.

“You beat your­self up men­tally and phys­i­cally,’’ said Jena-Lisa Jones, 30, who said Ep­stein mo­lested her when she was 14. “You can’t ever stop your thoughts. A word can trig­ger some­thing. For me, it is the word ‘pure’ be­cause he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I re­mem­ber what he did to me in that room.”

Now, more than a decade later, two un­re­lated civil law­suits — one set for trial on Dec. 4 — could re­veal more about Ep­stein’s crimes. The Dec. 4 case, in Palm Beach County state court, in­volves Ep­stein and Ed­wards, whom Ep­stein had ac­cused of le­gal mis­deeds in rep­re­sent­ing sev­eral vic­tims. The case is note­wor­thy be­cause it will mark the first time that Ep­stein’s vic­tims will have their day in court, and sev­eral of them are sched­uled to tes­tify.

A sec­ond law­suit, known as the fed­eral Crime Vic­tims’ Rights suit, is still pend­ing in South Florida af­ter a decade of le­gal joust­ing. It seeks to in­val­i­date the non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment in hopes of send­ing Ep­stein to fed­eral prison. Wild, who has never spo­ken pub­licly un­til now, is Jane Doe No. 1 in “Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe

No. 2 vs. the United States of Amer­ica,” a fed­eral law­suit that al­leges Ep­stein’s fed­eral non-pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment was il­le­gal.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors, in­clud­ing Acosta, not only broke the law, they con­tend in court doc­u­ments, but they con­spired with Ep­stein and his lawyers to cir­cum­vent pub­lic scru­tiny and de­ceive his vic­tims in vi­o­la­tion of the Crime Vic­tims’ Rights Act. The law as­signs vic­tims a se­ries of rights, in­clud­ing the right of no­tice of any court pro­ceed­ings and the op­por­tu­nity to ap­pear at sen­tenc­ing.

“As soon as that deal was signed, they si­lenced my voice and the voices of all of Jef­frey Ep­stein’s other vic­tims,” said Wild, now 31. “This case is about jus­tice, not just for us, but for other vic­tims who aren’t Olympic stars or Hol­ly­wood stars.”

In court pa­pers, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have ar­gued that they did not vi­o­late the Crime Vic­tims’ Rights Act be­cause no fed­eral charges were ever filed in the U.S. District Court for the South­ern District of Florida, an ar­gu­ment that was later dis­missed by the judge.

De­spite sub­stan­tial phys­i­cal ev­i­dence and mul­ti­ple wit­nesses that backed up the girls’ sto­ries, the se­cret deal al­lowed Ep­stein to en­ter guilty pleas to two felony pros­ti­tu­tion charges. Ep­stein ad­mit­ted to com­mit­ting only one of­fense against one un­der­age girl, who was la­beled a pros­ti­tute, even though she was 14, which is well un­der the age of con­sent — 18 in Florida.

“She was taken ad­van­tage of twice — first by Ep­stein, and then by the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem that la­beled a 14-year-old girl as a pros­ti­tute,” said Spencer Ku­vin, the lawyer who rep­re­sented the girl.

“It’s just out­ra­geous how they min­i­mized his crimes and de­val­ued his vic­tims by call­ing them pros­ti­tutes,” said Yas­min Vafa, a hu­man rights at­tor­ney and exec-


utive di­rec­tor of Right­s4Girls, which is work­ing to end the sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of girls and young women.

“There is no such thing as a child pros­ti­tute. Un­der fed­eral law, it’s called child sex traf­fick­ing — whether Ep­stein pimped them out to oth­ers or not. It’s still a com­mer­cial sex act — and he could have been jailed for the rest of his life un­der fed­eral law,” she said.

It would be easy to dis­miss the Ep­stein case as an­other ex­am­ple of how there are two sys­tems of jus­tice in Amer­ica, one for the rich and one for the poor. But a thor­ough anal­y­sis of the case tells a far more trou­bling story.

A close look at the trove of let­ters and emails con­tained in court records pro­vides a win­dow into the plea ne­go­ti­a­tions, re­veal­ing an un­usual level of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors and Ep­stein’s le­gal team that even gov­ern­ment lawyers, in re­cent court doc­u­ments, ad­mit­ted was un­ortho­dox.

Acosta, in 2011, would ex­plain that he was un­duly pres­sured by Ep­stein’s heavy-hit­ting lawyers — Le­fkowitz, Har­vard pro­fes­sor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Gold­berger, Roy Black, for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Guy Lewis, Ger­ald Le­f­court and Ken­neth Starr, the for­mer White­wa­ter spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor who in­ves­ti­gated Bill Clin­ton’s sex­ual li­aisons with Mon­ica Lewin­sky.

That in­cluded keep­ing the deal from Ep­stein’s vic­tims, emails show.

“Thank you for the com­mit­ment you made to me dur­ing our Oct. 12 meet­ing,” Le­fkowitz wrote in a let­ter to Acosta af­ter their break­fast meet­ing in West Palm Beach. He added that he was hope­ful that Acosta would abide by a promise to keep the deal con­fi­den­tial.

“You ... as­sured me that your of­fice would not ... con­tact any of the iden­ti­fied in­di­vid­u­als, po­ten­tial wit­nesses or po­ten­tial civil claimants and the re­spec­tive coun­sel in this mat­ter,” Le­fkowitz wrote.

In email af­ter email, Acosta and the lead fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, A. Marie Vil­lafaña, ac­qui­esced to Ep­stein’s le­gal team’s de­mands, which of­ten fo­cused on ways to limit the scan­dal by shut­ting out his vic­tims and the me­dia, in­clud­ing sug­gest­ing that the charges be filed in Mi­ami, in­stead of Palm Beach, where Ep­stein’s vic­tims lived.

“On an ‘avoid the press’ note ... I can file the charge in district court in Mi­ami which will hope­fully cut the press cov­er­age sig­nif­i­cantly. Do you want to check that out?” Vil­lafaña wrote to Le­fkowitz in a Septem­ber 2007 email.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors iden­ti­fied 36 un­der­age vic­tims, but none of those vic­tims ap­peared at his sen­tenc­ing on June 30, 2008, in state court in

Palm Beach County. Most of them heard about it on the news — and even then they didn’t un­der­stand what had hap­pened to the fed­eral probe that they’d been as­sured was on­go­ing.

Ed­wards filed an emer­gency mo­tion in fed­eral court to block the non­pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment, but by the time the agree­ment was un­sealed — more than a year later — Ep­stein had al­ready served his sen­tence and been re­leased from jail.

“The con­spir­acy be­tween the gov­ern­ment and Ep­stein was re­ally ‘Let’s fig­ure out a way to make the whole thing go away as qui­etly as pos­si­ble,’ ” said Ed­wards, who rep­re­sents Wild and Jane No. 2, who de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

“In never con­sult­ing with the vic­tims, and keep­ing it se­cret, it showed that some­one with money can buy his way out of any­thing.”

It was far from the last time Ep­stein would re­ceive VIP han­dling. Un­like other con­victed sex of­fend­ers, Ep­stein didn’t face the kind of rough jus­tice that child sex of­fend­ers do in Florida state pris­ons. In­stead of be­ing sent to state prison, Ep­stein was housed in a pri­vate wing of the Palm Beach County jail. And rather than hav­ing him sit in a cell most of the day, the Palm Beach County Sher­iff’s Of­fice al­lowed Ep­stein work re­lease priv­i­leges, which en­abled him to leave the jail six days a week, for 12 hours a day, to go to a com­fort­able of­fice that Ep­stein had set up in West Palm Beach. This was granted de­spite ex­plicit sher­iff’s de­part­ment rules stat­ing that sex of­fend­ers don’t qual­ify for work re- lease.

The sher­iff, Ric Brad­shaw, would not an­swer ques­tions, sub­mit­ted by the Mi­ami Her­ald, about Ep­stein’s work re­lease.

Nei­ther Ep­stein nor his lead at­tor­ney, Jack Gold­berger, re­sponded to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment for this ar­ti­cle. Dur­ing de­po­si­tions taken as part of two dozen law­suits filed against him by his vic­tims, Ep­stein has in­voked his Fifth Amend­ment right against self-in­crim­i­na­tion, in one in­stance do­ing so more than 200 times.

In the past, his lawyers have said that the girls lied about their ages, that their sto­ries were ex­ag­ger­ated or un­true and that they were un­re­li­able wit­nesses prone to drug use.

In 2011, Ep­stein pe­ti­tioned to have his sex of­fender sta­tus re­duced in New York, where he has a home and is re­quired to regis­ter ev­ery 90 days. In New York, he is clas­si­fied as a level 3 of­fender — the high­est safety risk be­cause of his like­li­hood to re­of­fend.

A pros­e­cu­tor un­der New York County District At­tor­ney Cyrus Vance ar­gued on Ep­stein’s be­half, telling New York Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pick­holtz that the Florida case never led to an in­dict­ment and that his un­der­age vic­tims failed to co­op­er­ate in the case. Pick­holtz, how­ever, de­nied the pe­ti­tion, ex­press­ing as­ton­ish­ment that a New York pros­e­cu­tor would make such a re­quest on be­half of a se­rial sex of­fender ac­cused of mo­lest­ing so many girls.

“I have to tell you, I’m a lit­tle over­whelmed be­cause I have never seen a pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice do any­thing like this. I have done so many [sex of­fender reg­is­tra­tion hear­ings] much less trou­bling than this one where the [pros­e­cu­tor] would never make a down­ward ar­gu­ment like this,” she said.

The women who went to Jef­frey Ep­stein’s man­sion as girls tend to di­vide their lives into two parts: life be­fore Jef­frey and life af­ter Jef­frey.

Be­fore she met Ep­stein, Courtney Wild was cap­tain of the cheer­lead­ing squad, first trum­pet in the band and an A-stu­dent at Lake Worth Mid­dle School.

Af­ter she met Ep­stein, she was a strip­per, a drug ad­dict and an in­mate at

Gads­den Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in Florida’s Pan­han­dle.

Wild still had braces on her teeth when she was in­tro­duced to him in 2002 at age 14.

She was fair, petite and slen­der, blonde and blueeyed. Wild, who later helped re­cruit other girls, said Ep­stein pre­ferred girls who were white, ap­peared pre­pubescent and those who were easy to ma­nip­u­late into go­ing fur­ther each time.

“By the time I was 16, I had prob­a­bly brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was in­volved in my life for years,” said Wild, who was re­leased from prison in Oc­to­ber af­ter serv­ing three years on drug charges.

The girls — mostly 13 to 16 — were lured to his pink water­front man­sion by Wild and other girls, who went to malls, house par­ties and other places where girls con­gre­gated and told re­cruits that they could earn $200 to $300 to give a man — Ep­stein — a mas­sage, ac­cord­ing to an unredacted copy of the Palm Beach po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion ob­tained by the Her­ald.

The lead Palm Beach po­lice de­tec­tive on the case, Joseph Re­carey, said Ep­stein’s op­er­a­tion worked like a sex­ual pyra­mid scheme.

“The com­mon in­ter­view with a girl went like this: ‘I was brought there by so and so. I didn’t feel com­fort­able with what hap­pened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn’t feel com­fort­able, I could bring some­one else and still get paid,’ ” Re­carey said.

Dur­ing the mas­sage ses­sions, Re­carey said, Ep­stein would mo­lest the girls, pay­ing them pre­mi­ums for en­gag­ing in oral sex and in­ter­course, and of­fer­ing them a fur­ther bounty to find him more girls.

Re­carey, in his first in­ter­view about the case, said the ev­i­dence the de­part­ment col­lected to sup­port the girls’ sto­ries was over­whelm­ing, in­clud­ing phone call records, copies of writ­ten phone mes­sages from the girls found in Ep­stein’s trash and Ep­stein’s flight logs, which showed his pri­vate plane in Palm Beach on the days the girls were sched­uled to give him mas­sages.

Ep­stein could be a gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor, Re­carey said, buy­ing his fa­vored girls gifts. He might rent a car for a young girl to make it more con­ve­nient for her to stop by and cater to him. Once, he sent a bucket of roses to the lo­cal high school af­ter one of his girls starred in a stage pro­duc­tion. The flo­ral-de­liv­ery in­struc­tions and a re­port card for one of the girls were dis­cov­ered in a search of his man­sion and trash. Po­lice also ob­tained re­ceipts for the rental cars and gifts, Re­carey said.

Ep­stein coun­seled the girls about their school­ing and told them he would help them get into col­lege, mod­el­ing school, fash­ion de­sign or act­ing. At least two of Ep­stein’s vic­tims told po­lice that they were in love with him, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice re­port.

The po­lice re­port shows how un­can­nily con­sis­tent the girls’ sto­ries were — right down to their de­tailed de­scrip­tions of Ep­stein’s gen­i­talia.

“We had vic­tims who didn’t know each other, never met each other and they all ba­si­cally in­de­pen­dently told the same story,” said Reiter, the re­tired Palm Beach po­lice chief.

Reiter, also speak­ing for the first time, said de­tec­tives were as­ton­ished by the sheer vol­ume of young girls com­ing and go­ing from his house, the fre­quency — some­times sev­eral in the same day — and the young ages of the girls.

“It started out to give a man a back rub, but in many cases it turned into some­thing far worse than that, el­e­vated to a se­ri­ous crime, in some cases sex­ual bat­ter­ies,” he said.

Most of the girls said they ar­rived by car or taxi and en­tered the side door, where they were led into a kitchen by a fe­male staff as­sis­tant named Sarah Kellen, the re­port said. A chef might pre­pare them a meal or of­fer them ce­real. The girls — most from lo­cal schools — would then as­cend a stair­case off the kitchen, up to a large mas­ter bed­room and bath.

They were met by Ep­stein, clad in a towel. He would select a lo­tion from an ar­ray lined up on a ta­ble, then lie face­down on a mas­sage ta­ble, in­struct the girl to strip par­tially or fully and di­rect her to mas­sage his feet and back­side. Then he would turn over and have them mas­sage his chest, of­ten in­struct­ing them to pinch his nip­ples, while he mas­tur­bated, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice re­port.

At times, if em­bold­ened, he would try to pen­e­trate them with his fin­gers or use a vi­bra­tor on them. He would go as far as the girls were will­ing to let him, in­clud­ing in­ter­course, ac­cord­ing to po­lice doc­u­ments. Some­times he would in­struct a young woman he de­scribed as his Yu­gosla­vian sex slave, Na­dia Marcinkova, who was more than 18, to join in, the girls told Re­carey. Ep­stein of­ten took pho­to­graphs of the girls hav­ing sex and dis­played them around the house, the de­tec­tive said.

Once sex­u­ally grat­i­fied, Ep­stein would take a shower in his mas­sive bath­room, which the girls de­scribed as hav­ing a large shower and a hot pink and mint green sofa.

Kellen (now Vickers) and Marcinkova, through their at­tor­neys, de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

One girl told po­lice that she was ap­proached by an Ep­stein re­cruiter when she was 16 and work­ing at the Welling­ton mall. Over the course of more than a year, she went to Ep­stein’s house hun­dreds of times, she said. The girl tear­fully told Re­carey that she of­ten had sex with Marcinkova — who em­ployed strap-on dil­dos and other toys — while Ep­stein watched and chore­ographed her moves to please him­self, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice re­port. Of­ten times, she said, she was so sore af­ter the en­coun­ters that she could barely walk, the po­lice re­port said.

But she said she was firm about not want­ing to have in­ter­course with Ep­stein. One day, how­ever, the girl said that Ep­stein, un­able to con­trol him­self, held her down on a mas­sage ta­ble and pen­e­trated her, the po­lice re­port said. The girl, who was 16 or 17 at the time, said that Ep­stein apol­o­gized and paid her $1,000, the po­lice re­port said.

Most of the girls came from dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies, sin­gle-par­ent homes or foster care. Some had ex­pe­ri­enced trou­bles that be­lied their ages: They had par­ents and friends who com­mit­ted sui­cide; moth­ers abused by hus­bands and boyfriends; fa­thers who mo­lested and beat them. One girl had watched her step­fa­ther stran­gle her 8-year-old step­brother, ac­cord­ing to court records ob­tained by the Her­ald.

Many of the girls were one step away from home­less­ness.

“We were stupid, poor chil­dren,” said one woman, who did not want to be named be­cause she never told any­one about Ep­stein. At the time, she said, she was 14 and a high school fresh­man.

“We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I re­mem­ber wear­ing shoes too tight for three years in a row. We had no fam­ily and no guid­ance, and we were told that we were go­ing to just have to sit in a room top­less and he was go­ing to just look at us. It sounded so sim­ple, and was go­ing to be easy money for just sit­ting there.”

The woman, who went to Ep­stein’s home mul­ti­ple times, said Ep­stein didn’t like her be­cause her breasts were too big. The last time she went, she said, one girl came out cry­ing and they were in­structed to leave the house and had to pay for their own cab home.

Some girls told po­lice they were coached by their peer re­cruiters to lie to Ep­stein about their ages and say they were 18. Ep­stein’s le­gal team would later claim that even if the girls were un­der 18, there was no way he could have known. How­ever, un­der Florida law, ig­no­rance of a sex part­ner’s age is not a de­fense for hav­ing sex with a mi­nor.

Wild, who worked for Ep­stein un­til she was 21, said he was well aware of their ten­der ages — be­cause he de­manded they be young.

“He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,” she said, ex­plain­ing that as she grew older and had less ac­cess to young girls, Ep­stein got in­creas­ingly an­gry with her in­abil­ity to find him the young girls he de­sired.

“If I had a girl to bring him at break­fast, lunch and din­ner, then that’s how many times I would go a day. He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough.”

Ep­stein’s scheme first be­gan to un­ravel in March 2005, when the par­ents of a 14-year-old girl told Palm Beach po­lice that she had been mo­lested by Ep­stein at his man­sion. The girl re­luc­tantly con­fessed that she had been brought there by two other girls, and those girls pointed to two more girls who had been there.

By the time de­tec­tives tracked down one vic­tim, there were two and three more to find. Soon there were dozens.

“We didn’t know where the vic­tims would ever end,” Reiter said.

Even­tu­ally, the girls told them about still other girls and young women they had seen at Ep­stein’s house, many of whom didn’t speak English, Re­carey said. That led Re­carey to sus­pect that Ep­stein’s ex­ploits weren’t just con­fined to Palm Beach. Po­lice ob­tained the flight logs for his pri­vate plane and found fe­male names and ini­tials among the list of peo­ple who flew on the air­craft — in­clud­ing the names of some fa­mous and pow­er­ful peo­ple who had also been pas­sen­gers, Re­carey said.

A newly re­leased FBI re­port, posted on the bureau’s web­site as a re­sult of the Her­ald’s Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest, shows that at the time the non-pros­e­cu­tion deal was ex­e­cuted, the FBI was in­ter­view­ing wit­nesses and vic­tims “from across the United States.” The probe stretched from Florida to New York and New Mex­ico, records show.

In­deed, one law­suit, still


pend­ing in New York, al­leges that Ep­stein used an in­ter­na­tional mod­el­ing agency to re­cruit girls as young as 13 from Europe, Ecuador and Brazil. The girls lived in a New York build­ing owned by Ep­stein, who paid for their visas, ac­cord­ing to the sworn state­ment of Mar­itza Vasquez, the one­time book­keeper for Mc2, the mod­el­ing agency.

Mike Fis­ten, a for­mer Mi­ami-Dade po­lice sergeant who was also a homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tor and a mem­ber of the FBI Or­ga­nized Crime Task Force, said the FBI had enough ev­i­dence to put Ep­stein away for a long time but was over­ruled by Acosta. Some of the agents in­volved in the case were dis­ap­pointed by Acosta’s bow­ing to pres­sure from Ep­stein’s lawyers, he said.

“The day that a sit­ting U.S. at­tor­ney is afraid of a lawyer or afraid of a de­fen­dant is a very sad day in this coun­try,” said Fis­ten, now a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor for Ed­wards.

Now, a com­plex web of lit­i­ga­tion could re­veal more about Ep­stein’s crimes. A law­suit, set for trial Dec. 4 in Palm Beach County, in­volves the no­to­ri­ous con­victed Ponzi schemer Scott Roth­stein, in whose law firm Ed­wards once worked.

In 2009, Ep­stein sued Ed­wards, al­leg­ing that Ed­wards was in­volved with Roth­stein and was us­ing the girls’ civil law­suits to per­pet­u­ate Roth­stein’s mas­sive Ponzi op­er­a­tion. But Roth­stein said Ed­wards didn’t know about the scheme, and Ep­stein dropped the law­suit.

Ed­wards coun­ter­sued for ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion, ar­gu­ing that Ep­stein sued him to re­tal­i­ate for his ag­gres­sive rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Ep­stein’s vic­tims.

Sev­eral women who went to Ep­stein’s home as un­der­age girls are sched­uled to tes­tify against him for the first time.

Florida state Sen. Lau­ren Book, a child sex abuse sur­vivor who has lob­bied for tough sex of­fender laws, said Ep­stein’s case should serve as a tip­ping point for crim­i­nal cases in­volv­ing sex crimes against chil­dren.

“Where is the right­eous in­dig­na­tion for these women? Where are the pro­tec­tors? Who is bang­ing down the doors of the sec­re­tary of la­bor, or the judge or the sher­iff’s of­fice in Palm Beach County, de­mand­ing jus­tice and de­mand­ing the right to be heard?” Book asked.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Vil­lafaña, in court pa­pers, said that pros­e­cu­tors used their “best ef­forts” to com­ply with the Crime Vic­tims’ Rights Act but ex­er­cised their “pros­e­cu­to­rial dis­cre­tion” when they chose not to no­tify the vic­tims. The rea­son­ing went like this: The non-pros­e­cu­tion deal had a resti­tu­tion clause that pro­vided the girls a chance to seek com­pen­sa­tion from Ep­stein. Had the deal fallen through, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a trial, Ep­stein’s lawyers might have used the prior resti­tu­tion clause to un­der­mine the girls’ cred­i­bil­ity as wit­nesses, by claim­ing they had ex­ag­ger­ated Ep­stein’s be­hav­ior in hopes of cash­ing in.

Acosta has never fully ex­plained why he felt it was in the best in­ter­ests of the un­der­age girls — and their par­ents — for him to keep the agree­ment sealed. Or why the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion was closed even as, re­cently re­leased doc­u­ments show, the case was yield­ing more vic­tims and ev­i­dence of a pos­si­ble sex-traf­fick­ing con­spir­acy beyond Palm Beach.

Upon his nom­i­na­tion by Trump as la­bor sec­re­tary in 2017, Acosta was ques­tioned about the Ep­stein case dur­ing a Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

“At the end of the day, based on the ev­i­dence, pro­fes­sion­als within a pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice de­cided that a plea that guar­an­tees some­one goes to jail, that guar­an­tees he regis­ter [as a sex of­fender] gen­er­ally and guar­an­tees other out­comes, is a good thing,” Acosta said of his de­ci­sion to not pros­e­cute Ep­stein fed­er­ally.

Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, in op­pos­ing Acosta for la­bor sec­re­tary, noted that “his han­dling of a case in­volv­ing sex traf­fick­ing of un­der­age girls when he was a U.S. at­tor­ney sug­gests he won’t put the in­ter­ests of work­ers and every­day peo­ple ahead of the pow­er­ful and well-con­nected.”

Marci Hamil­ton, a Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia law pro­fes­sor who is one of the na­tion’s lead­ing ad­vo­cates for re­form­ing laws in­volv­ing sex crimes against chil­dren, said what Acosta and other pros­e­cu­tors did is sim­i­lar to what the Catholic Church did to pro­tect pe­dophile priests.

“The real crime with the Catholic priests was the way they cov­ered it up and shielded the priests,” Hamil­ton said. “The orches­tra­tion of power by men only is pro­tected as long as ev­ery­body agrees to keep it se­cret. This is a story the world needs to hear.”

PE­DRO POR­TAL ppor­[email protected]­ami­her­

In what was a sex pyra­mid scheme car­ried out at his water­front man­sion, young girls were paid to give Jef­frey Ep­stein mas­sages that turned into sex acts. Those girls were paid to re­cruit oth­ers.

In a de­po­si­tion, Ep­stein dis­played a va­ri­ety of ex­pres­sions as he in­voked his con­sti­tu­tional right to si­lence more than 200 times.


The pros­e­cu­tion and de­fense teamed up to make sure that none of Jef­frey Ep­stein’s vic­tims were present when he fi­nally went to court.

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

At­tor­ney Bradley Ed­wards is rep­re­sent­ing sev­eral women who say they were sex­u­ally abused as mi­nors by the Palm Beach mul­ti­mil­lion­aire.


Alexan­der Acosta, now Sec­re­tary of La­bor, was ques­tioned briefly about his role in the Ep­stein case when his nom­i­na­tion came be­fore the Se­nate.

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

‘He ru­ined my life and a lot of girls’ lives,’ Michelle Li­cata, 30, said of Jef­frey Ep­stein. ‘Peo­ple need to know what he did and why he wasn’t pros­e­cuted so it never hap­pens again.’

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

Joseph Re­carey, who was the lead de­tec­tive on the Ep­stein case, be­lieved the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire’s sex­ual crimes were not con­fined to the town of Palm Beach. He and his chief, Michael Reiter, felt pros­e­cu­tors were thwart­ing their ef­forts.

EMI­[email protected]­AMI­HER­ALD.COM Emily Michot

‘He went af­ter girls who he thought no one would lis­ten to and he was right,’ said Courtney Wild, 31, who says she was 14 when she met Ep­stein.

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

Jena-Lisa Jones, now 30, talks about when she was in­tro­duced to Ep­stein by some teenage friends. She was 14.

C.M.GUER­RERO The Mi­ami Her­ald

Roy Black was part of Jef­frey Ep­stein’s all-star le­gal team.


Ken­neth Starr, who fa­mously in­ves­ti­gated Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s sex­ual mis­con­duct, joined the le­gal team de­fend­ing Ep­stein.

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

The home on El Brillo Way is one of many owned by Ep­stein. He owns an en­tire is­land in the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands.

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

It is ‘a very sad day’ when a U.S. at­tor­ney is cowed by a wealthy de­fen­dant, said pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor Mike Fis­ten.

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

The girls ‘all ba­si­cally told the same story,’ said Michael Reiter, the Palm Beach chief who in­ves­ti­gated Ep­stein.

EMILY MICHOT emi­[email protected]­ami­her­

Jef­frey Ep­stein’s pri­vate plane is parked at Palm Beach In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

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