The Unraveling of Jeffrey Epstein

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“When you put all of these puzzle pieces together, with the passage of time, there was this really damning story.”

Julie K. Brown, the investigative reporter at The Miami Herald who helped bring down Jeffrey Epstein


Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier and felon, had been accused of pedophilia and sexual abuse for more than a decade — serving time in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution. But it wasn’t until this month, when he was arrested on sex-trafficking charges, that the extent of the crimes he is accused of started to be widely known.

Last week, federal prosecutors revealed that a trove of lewd photographs of girls as young as 14 had been discovered in a safe in his Manhattan mansion. Epstein, 66, pleaded not guilty.

[MORE: Jeffrey Epstein Is Indicted on Sex Charges as Discovery of Nude Photos Is Disclosed]

In the days since, a complex picture of a man who prosecutors say has leveraged his wealth and influence to lure underage teenagers and to shield him from the law has come into focus — though the impact of his downfall is still unfolding.

Here’s what we know so far.

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Once a math and physics teacher at an esteemed Manhattan prep school in the 1970s, Jeffrey Epstein went on to become a hedge fund manager who counted President Trump, former President Bill Clinton, Woody Allen and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, among other famous people, as friends and acquaintances.

(Trump once called Epstein a “terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Now Trump says he’s “not a fan.”)

According to the recent indictment, the charges against Epstein — which include sexually abusing and exploiting dozens of girls, as well as asking some of the girls to recruit other girls — date back to at least 2002.

In 2008, after paying a teenage girl for sexual favors, he pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution in a deal with federal prosecutors that has been widely criticized. He served 13 months in jail but was able to work out of his office six days a week.

The deal was brokered by Alexander Acosta, who was then a United States attorney in Florida but would go on to become President Trump’s labor secretary (more on that below).

“I’m not a sexual predator, I’m an ‘offender,’” Epstein told The New York Post in 2011. “It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.”

[MORE: Jeffrey Epstein Was a Sex Offender. The Powerful Welcomed Him Anyway.]

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Yes, in Florida, where the crime occurred. But he avoided check-ins with the authorities in New York by changing his official residence to the United States Virgin Islands. And in New Mexico, where he had a palatial home, he could skip inclusion in the state registry entirely.

[MORE: A Timeline of the Sex-Trafficking Charges and Allegations Against Epstein Since 2002]

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When President Trump nominated Alexander Acosta to be secretary of labor in 2017, Julie Brown, an investigative journalist for The Miami Herald, turned a sharp eye to Acosta. She knew he had handled Epstein’s prosecution while serving as the United States attorney in Miami.

She discovered that Acosta had led a team of federal lawyers who secretly negotiated the plea deal that granted Epstein immunity from federal sex-trafficking charges — and she identified about 80 of Epstein’s alleged victims.

“Sometimes a story deserves a new look,” she said last week.

[MORE: The Jeffrey Epstein Case Was Cold, Until a Miami Herald Reporter Got Accusers to Talk]

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After spending the week under intense criticism for his handling of the 2008 case, Acosta resigned as labor secretary on Friday. Just two days before, he had defended his role in the case — saying he faced a tough choice between accepting the plea deal and going to trial with witnesses who were scared to testify.

President Trump said he felt “badly” for Acosta and praised him as “an excellent secretary of labor.”

[MORE: Acosta to Resign as Labor Secretary Over Jeffrey Epstein Plea Deal]

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He has been detained since his arrest in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, a highly secure jail that has held accused terrorists, mobsters and the drug lord known as El Chapo.

Yesterday, federal prosecutors argued that Epstein should be denied bail because he was a flight risk and a danger to the community. He could use his fortune, estimated to be more than $500 million, to help him flee, they said.

A safe in his mansion, they said, held “piles of cash,” diamonds and an expired passport from a foreign country with Epstein’s photograph and a fake name.

Epstein has offered his mansion and private jet as bail collateral. Judge Richard Berman said he would not rule until Thursday on whether Epstein should be granted bail.