Multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein paid $350,000 to potential witnesses in sex trafficking case, prosecutors say

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jul 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-12 21:19:16-04

Federal prosecutors in New York accused Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire charged with sex trafficking, of possible witness tampering, saying in a court filing Friday he made $350,000 in payments to two possible co-conspirators after a series of newspaper stories alleged he sexually abused dozens of girls.

The payments were made to two individuals who could potentially testify against Epstein at trial, the prosecutors said in the court filing, which argued against granting Epstein bail.

“This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations,” prosecutors wrote.

Epstein is charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors related to alleged conduct that occurred between 2002 and 2005. He has pleaded not guilty.

Epstein is accused of running a sex-trafficking enterprise, where he paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home in New York and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Prosecutors say he used employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences, and then paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse. His bail hearing is set for Monday.

Prosecutors raised the issue of possible witness tampering after Epstein’s attorneys submitted a bail request on Thursday, asking the judge to allow Epstein to remain out of jail and live at his Upper East Side mansion, one of the largest residences in Manhattan, pending trial. His attorneys suggested an array of other bail conditions, including having him pledge his home as collateral, ordering privately funded security at the residence and requiring a court-appointed, live-in trustee to monitor Epstein’s compliance with the proposed bail package.

Prosecutors said in court papers that Epstein poses a flight risk and could use his wealth to tamper with the investigation, pointing to the payments to the two possible witnesses.

In November 2018, two days after the Miami Herald published stories about a lenient deal Epstein struck in 2007 with prosecutors that let him avoid federal charges while pleading guilty to lesser state charges of prostitution, he made the first of the two payments to the two people who were both named as possible co-conspirators in the plea agreement he signed in 2007, according to prosecutors.

Those payments, according to court documents: $100,000 paid to a person from a trust account Epstein controlled and another $250,000 paid to a second person paid from that same account.

Prosecutors also contend using Epstein’s home as collateral is pointless because the government is seeking to seize the property if he is convicted.

They also dismissed his offer to agree to extradition in any country as “unenforceable,” and they said electronic monitoring would do little but “merely give the defendant less of a head start in fleeing, according to the court filing.

The court filing provided the first public accounting of Epstein’s wealth. Prosecutors appear to have obtained records from a financial institution where Epstein was a client, which show that he is worth more than $500 million and that he earns more than $10 million a year. Though Epstein has refused to fill out a financial affidavit, prosecutors said he “reports having an extraordinary amount of money in both total assets and cash or cash-equivalent holdings.”