Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was formally charged with the sex trafficking of minors on Monday in New York City.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York filed a 14-page grand jury indictment accusing Epstein of paying dozens of girls as young as 14 to engage in sex acts with him in his homes in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He “conspired with others” to sexually abuse and exploit the girls, and paid his victims to recruit others, court documents allege.
The billionaire financier was charged with child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. He pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon.
Prosecutors said Monday they would recommend Epstein be jailed until his next court hearing. They also urged that he be held without bail because “the charges in this case are exceptionally serious.”
“The nature of the offenses he is alleged to have perpetrated ― the abuse [of] dozens of underage, vulnerable girls ― along with his demonstrated willingness to harass, intimidate and otherwise tamper with victims and other potential witnesses against him, render his dangerousness readily apparent,” they wrote in a court filing.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said he considered Epstein a flight risk. “When you have two planes and live much of the year abroad, we think that’s a very real risk,” he told reporters.
Berman called on any victims of Epstein who hadn’t yet come forward to contact the FBI.
“The alleged behavior shocks the conscience,” U.S. Berman said at a news conference. “The sexual abuse of a minor can have devastating effects on the victims, often for years ... victims voices, including the victims of Epstein’s alleged victims, must be heard.”
Epstein, who escaped serious punishment on federal prostitution charges in 2008, was arrested over the weekend when his jet landed at a New Jersey airport. As part of the indictment, prosecutors said they intend to seize his Upper East Side mansion, where some of the abuses occurred. They scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m.
The indictment alleges Epstein engaged in a twisted ritual of abuse. He would have girls escorted to one of his homes, according to the document, where they would be forced to perform massages on him and engage in sexual behavior. He would then allegedly pay them hundreds of dollars.
“Epstein incentivized his victims to become recruiters by paying these victim recruiters hundreds of dollars for each girl that they brought to” him, the indictment states. “In so doing, Epstein maintained a steady supply of new victims to exploit.”
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to prostitution charges and registered as a sex offender in Florida as part of a sweetheart plea deal with U.S. attorneys in Miami. His sentence allowed work release and he received very little jail time.
Those federal prosecutors, working under then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta in Miami, broke the law by keeping that deal secret from victims, a federal judge ruled this year. Acosta now works as secretary of labor in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
The Miami Herald cast new light on Epstein’s abuses in a three-part expose in November and identified 80 women who said he abused them. In court filings, the FBI identified more than 100 of his victims, according to the Herald.
The Miami Herald investigation revealed Epstein’s friendships, private meetings and other ties with famous people like former President Bill Clinton and Trump. Clinton often flew in Epstein’s private plane and visited his island, while Trump once described him as a “terrific guy.”
The 2008 plea deal helped to keep the names of any co-conspirators out of court documents.
The new indictment doesn’t name anyone alleged to have conspired with Epstein in the sex crimes. Separately, the Herald reported that there was no evidence Trump or Clinton were involved in Epstein’s crimes.