What to Know
- Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in New York City; he's due in court later Monday
- The politically connected Florida financier was arrested Saturday as he returned from Europe, sources said
- Investigators went in and out of Epstein's Upper East Side townhouse on Sunday morning; neighbors expressed disgust at the alleged crimes
Jeffrey Epstein’s background, his past guilty plea, his connections to high-profile U.S. and foreign government leaders and his federal non-prosecution agreement have been continually reported on for nearly a decade. But who is this billionaire, who owns an island and is now facing a federal sex trafficking indictment in New York City? Here’s a primer on the man -- and how we got here.
WHO IS JEFFREY EPSTEIN?
Jeffrey Epstein was born January 20, 1953, and has reportedly made his billions first as an options trader in the late 70s working for the now defunct Bear Stearns and later as an investor for his own financial management firm. One of his routes to success, according to an interview in Vanity Fair, was to be the primary investor and money manager for Limited Brands founder Leslie Wexner. (Limited Brands owns Victoria’s Secret, PINK, and Bath & Body Works). Epstein apparently parlayed his wealth and his success to go on to establish numerous political and social contacts in the Palm Beach area and across the globe.
U.S. & World
Some of those political connections include President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton. Trump spoke of Epstein in a 2002 interview with New York Magazine saying, “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy, adding, "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."
Former President Clinton flew on one of Epstein’s planes on several occasions according to flight records reviewed by NBC News.
Epstein maintains addresses on his own island in St. Thomas, the Upper East Side in New York City, Paris, New Mexico, and Palm Beach, according to his sex offender registration in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement index.
He has a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, several Harley Davidson motorcycles, and nine Mercedes-Benzs registered or owned in his name, according to Florida law enforcement records reviewed by NBC News.
THE EPSTEIN INVESTIGATION
Jeffrey Epstein was formally put under investigation by the Palm Beach Police Department on March 15, 2005. According to a Palm Beach Police Department case file obtained by NBC News through a public records request, investigators sought to charge Epstein, and his assistants Sarah Kellen and Haley Robson with crimes tied to Epstein’s alleged sexual behavior with underage girls at his home. According to the police files, Palm Beach investigators interviewed five victims and 17 witnesses.
The police files state that Epstein brought the women to his house under the guise that they would give him massages. Police say those massages would turn sexual. Some of the underage victims told police that Epstein would use sex toys on them while he received a “massage.” In another instance, one girl was allegedly paid to have sex with one of Epstein’s female assistants.
One witness stated that Epstein had a dozen roses sent to the local high school for one of the girls who allegedly had given Epstein a massage. According to the police files, a former housekeeper told law enforcement that Epstein would receive three massages a day.
The files also state that Epstein would pay the victims $200-$1,000 per massage and that Epstein had several covert cameras installed in clocks in his residence.
Ultimately, by the spring of 2006, the Palm Beach Police Department sought to have Epstein arrested and charged with four counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and lewd and lascivious molestation.
In May 2006, Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter wrote to then State Attorney Barry Kirscher saying, “I must renew my prior observation to you that I continue to find your office’s treatment of these cases highly unusual.” Reiter wrote the letter when presenting the probable cause affidavits for Epstein’s arrest and the arrest of his two assistants.
At the same time, federal prosecutors and the FBI in Miami started to work the case. Most of the details of that investigation have yet to be made public.
In the end, the case concluded in October 2007 with Epstein pleading guilty to procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution as well as felony solicitation of prostitution, according to the plea agreement. In addition, Epstein would have to register as a sex offender.
In addition to that, Epstein signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office based in Miami, with then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta (now Secretary of Labor for the United States of America).
NBC News has a copy of that agreement from a civil lawsuit lawsuit, which states that the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office found that from 2001 to September of 2007 Epstein conspired with others to knowingly persuade or entice minor females to engage in prostitution, conspired with others to travel minor females across state lines for the purposes of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, and knowingly recruited or enticed a minor across state lines or across countries so that the person would engage in a commercial sex act, among other similar charges.
EPSTEIN SIGNED A NON-PROSECUTION AGREEMENT (NPA), SO WHY IS HE BEING PROSECUTED BY THE FEDS?
Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida contains the following paragraph:
“Therefore, on authority of R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, prosecution in this District for these offenses shall be deferred in favor of prosecution by the State of Florida, provided that Epstein abides by the following conditions and the requirements of this Agreement set forth below.”
This key paragraph, which is often found in similar NPAs, limits the scope of the agreement to only the Miami area, which includes Palm Beach.
This means that if Epstein’s alleged illegal activities took place in other parts of the country, including New York City, Epstein’s NPA no longer protects him.