Billionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested Saturday and could finally face federal charges for years of allegedly recruiting underage girls in a sort of sex abuse pyramid scheme.
Because of his money and influence, Epstein had eluded federal prosecution, spending only a year in a county jail, with no opportunity for his dozens of victims to pursue justice. That might be about to change — and it may have implications for the Trump administration.
The new indictment reportedly will be unsealed Monday in a federal court in Manhattan, where Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors, for which the 66-year-old could face a maximum of 45 years in prison.
As the Miami Herald reported in a massive exposé last year, Epstein recruited girls age 13-16, offering to pay them for massages, but he would instead sexually abuse them. He would only offer to let them keep the money without having sex if they went out and recruited other girls. He would also shuttle the girls on his private jet between his homes in Palm Beach, New York City, New Mexico, and the Virgin Islands.
When Epstein first faced charges for these crimes a decade ago, his lawyers engineered a “non-prosecution agreement” that not only spared him federal prison, but also concealed the extent of his crimes and offered immunity to “any potential co-conspirators.”
The plea deal also notably included an arrangement not to inform the victims about it — in violation of federal law. This denied them the opportunity of objecting to the deal and pursuing justice for themselves. Epstein served only 13 months in a county jail on two minor state charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution.
The prosecutor who agreed to such generous and illegal terms was Alex Acosta, who now serves as President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor. Among the lawyers who defended Epstein was stalwart Trump defender Alan Dershowitz, who has also been accused of having sex with one of the underage girls in Epstein’s ring.
Back in February, a federal judge ruled that the agreement Acosta had brokered had violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. A group of Democratic lawmakers responded to the ruling by calling for Acosta to resign, though he has not. Epstein’s victims began a new effort to seek justice in the wake of that ruling, but just two weeks ago, the Justice Department rejected efforts to toss out the illegal plea deal.
The new charges in New York, however, could be an opportunity to properly prosecute Epstein for his crimes. Additionally, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled last week that the court records from Epstein’s previous indictment could all be unsealed, meaning ample light might finally shine not only on Epstein, but on the network of staffers who assisted him in organizing his alleged sex trafficking ring, as well as possibly others who made use of it.
Among Epstein’s friends was Trump himself. In a 2002 interview, Trump praised Epstein as a “terrific guy” who’s “a lot of fun to be with.” He added, “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.” Trump was recently accused of sexual assault by writer E. Jean Carroll, which is at least the 16th of such accusations.
A source familiar with the charges told the Miami Herald that Epstein’s fate could be determined entirely based on whether he’s granted bail Monday. “That bail hearing will be critical because if they grant him bail, he has enough money that he will disappear and they will never get him,’’ the source said.
This story has been updated to clarify the allegations against Epstein.