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U.S. Virgin Islands Officials: Epstein Trafficked Girls On Private Island Until 2018

A view of Jeffrey Epstein's mansion on Little St. James Island. Prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit that accuses Epstein of human trafficking that victimized young women and children as young as 11.
Gabriel Lopez Albarran
A view of Jeffrey Epstein's mansion on Little St. James Island. Prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit that accuses Epstein of human trafficking that victimized young women and children as young as 11.

Prosecutors in the U.S. Virgin Islands have unveiled a new lawsuit against the estate of Jeffrey Epstein alleging that over two decades he ran a conspiracy in which he transported young women and girls to his private Caribbean islands by helicopter and boat and then subjected them to sexual abuse.

Authorities claim Epstein's sexual predation on the hideaway islands occurred as recently as 2018 and involved children as young as 11 years old. The suit alleges the activity was covered up by Epstein's associates through a complex web of corporations.

In one instance, investigators say a 15-year-old who was forced into sexual acts with Epstein attempted to escape by swimming off one of Epstein's private islands, Little St. James. Eventually, Epstein's crew found her after assembling a search team and took her passport, prosecutors say.

Along with Epstein's other privately owned island, Great St. James, authorities estimate that the islands are worth $86 million, just a slice of Epstein's total assets, valued by the government to be more than $577 million.

The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Denise George seeks to confiscate all property used in the alleged criminal conspiracy, including his two private islands, and is asking for the recovery of millions of dollars from the Epstein estate. Epstein's victims would be the beneficiaries of what authorities are hoping to seize, George said.

Addressing reporters on Wednesday, George said the civil suit detailed an "expansive scheme" that shows a "pattern and practice of human trafficking, sexual abuse and forced labor of young women."

Epstein, who authorities say died by suicide in jaillast year while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges, faced accusations of sexually abusing young women and children in New York and Florida, but those allegations were dated no later than 2005.

The lawsuit filed this week by Virgin Islands prosecutors significantly widens the scope of his alleged sexual abuse to include conduct in 2018, the same year public scrutiny began to mount on the wealthy money manager in the wake of a Miami Herald investigation into his long history of alleged sexual abuse.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday lays out how Epstein allegedly enticed and entrapped dozens of victims.

As the prosecutors tell it, his associates would locate young women and lure them with the promise of advancing a modeling career, pursuing educational opportunities or landing other work. Epstein would then arrange for the victims to visit his islands, flying them by helicopter or plane, or transporting them by boat.

"As recent as 2018, air traffic controllers and other airport personnel reported seeing Epstein leave his plane with young girls some of whom appeared to be between the age of 11 and 18 years old," the complaint alleges.

Epstein, prosecutors say, paid for women to show up to his estates on the islands, often providing extra money if the victims brought along additional young women and girls.

He required three meetings a day, authorities say.

"The Epstein Enterprise used the term 'work' as a code for sexual abuse," the complaint says.

Investigators said Epstein kept computer records to monitor all contact he had with the victims.

"Once the girls and women were recruited, participants in the Epstein Enterprise enforced their sexual servitude of victims by coercion, including but not limited to, confiscating passports, controlling and extinguishing external communications, and threatening violence. They also made fraudulent statements to family members of victims, claiming victims were being well cared for and supported financially in college and other educational opportunities," prosecutors allege.

An executor of Epstein's estate, Darren Indyke, did not respond to a request for comment on the new lawsuit. As of Wednesday, court records did not reflect who was representing Epstein's estate in the civil action.

In November, Indyke announcedthat the Epstein estate is in the process of establishing a compensation fund for victims of Epstein's abuse. It is unclear how much of Epstein's $577 million worth would be available to victims, nor is it yet understood how the claims process would be organized.

Prosecutors say over the course of the investigation, Epstein made attempts to stymie the work of investigators.

In July 2018, a Virgin Islands Department of Justice investigative team, which included U.S. Marshals, tried to enter Little St. James, but Epstein refused to allow them in, claiming the dock to the island was his "front door," according to the complaint.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.