Jeffrey Epstein’s world of wealth and powerful friends
Epstein died by suicide, according to two law enforcement officials, while awaiting trial on charges of trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. The New York City medical examiner’s office hasn’t determined his manner of death.
Epstein, 66, was taken from New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center on Saturday morning in cardiac arrest and died at an area hospital, the sources told CNN.
In July, Epstein was arrested and pleaded not guilty to one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He was facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted of both charges.
He was accused of running a child trafficking ring to provide him with girls as young as 14 for sex and nude massages at his homes in New York City and Florida between 2002 and 2005.
Under a controversial arrangement, he pleaded guilty more than 10 years ago to two prostitution charges, one involving a 14-year-old girl, according to the Miami Herald.
Prosecutors said Epstein owned two airplanes and had “extreme” wealth, although he did not answer the government’s questions about his property and other assets.
His holdings included homes in New Mexico, France and the Virgin Islands — where he owned both Little St. James and Great St. James islands — according to the Miami Herald. Prosecutors credited the newspaper’s investigation with bringing to light details and accusations that had led to the new charges.
Friends in high places
“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” Donald Trump, long before he was President, told New York magazine in 2002.
“He’s a lot of fun to be with. 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 said.
The Harvard Crimson, which profiled Epstein in 2003 after he contributed $30 million to the school, described him as having a “bevy of eminent friends that includes princes, presidents and Nobel Prize winners.”
Epstein reportedly flew Clinton and actor Kevin Spacey in the early 2000s to Africa for HIV/AIDS work.
“I invest in people — be it politics or science. It’s what I do,” Epstein is quoted as telling New York magazine.
2008 plea deal
Those connections apparently played a role in his landing a plea deal with federal prosecutors in 2008 to dispense with charges similar to the ones he faced this year.
Epstein pleaded guilty to the two state-level prostitution charges, served only 13 months in prison and was released during the day to run his business.
The federal prosecutor who struck the deal was former labor secretary Alexander Acosta, who resigned in July after furor over his role in the Epstein case.
At his confirmation hearing in March 2017 for the Trump Cabinet post, Acosta defended the decision to reach a plea deal.
“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decide that a plea that guarantees that someone goes to jail, that guarantees that someone register generally and that guarantees other outcomes is a good thing,” Acosta said. He called that decision “broadly held” within the office.
The new charges against Epstein in July sparked renewed scrutiny of Acosta’s role in the case, with Democrats calling for his resignation.
“The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence,” Acosta wrote in a tweet in July.
Three days later, Acosta said he was stepping down to remove himself as a distraction.
“I do not think it is right and fair to this administration’s Labor Department to have Epstein as the focus rather than the incredible economy that we have today,” Acosta said at the time. “And so I called the President this morning. I told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside.”
Wealth built from investment management
New York magazine reported that Epstein did not complete his bachelor’s degree and was described as a brilliant money manager. He is said to have landed the job on the recommendation of a student’s father while teaching math at Dalton, a college prep school in New York.
After a few years at Bear Stearns, he founded his own firm and exclusively took on clients worth more than $1 billion.
That wealth played into prosecutors’ request for Epstein to remain behind bars while awaiting trial.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.