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Prosecutors: Epstein paid potential witnesses against him

In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein,

In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, center, sits with attorneys Martin Weinberg, left, and Marc Fernich during his arraignment in federal court in Manhattan on Monday. Credit: Elizabeth Williams

Manhattan federal prosecutors said in a court filing Friday that alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is worth more than $500 million and paid six-figure sums to two potential witnesses against him in potentially obstructive conduct as recently as last year.

In a memo urging Manhattan U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to keep Epstein in jail at a Monday bail hearing, the government said he made $100,000 and $250,000 payments to possible co-conspirators after a Miami Herald series last November raised questions about his 2007 plea deal in Florida.

“Neither of these payments appears to be recurring or repeating during the approximately five years of bank records presently available to the government,” prosecutors told Berman. “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.”

Epstein, 66, a rich financier, was charged this week with conspiracy and sex trafficking for allegedly paying “dozens” of girls as young as 15 to perform nude massages that involved sexual touching at his home in Palm Beach and his $77 million East Side mansion from 2002 to 2005.

The allegations tracked charges from over a decade ago, when Epstein negotiated a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Florida in 2007 in return for pleading guilty to two state prostitution felonies, serving more than a year in jail, and registering as a sex offender.

That deal became controversial after Epstein’s accusers said it was too lenient and was illegally kept secret from his victims. A federal judge in Florida ruled this year that prosecutors there violated the law, and Alexander Acosta, the then-Florida U.S. attorney who approved it, resigned under fire as the secretary of labor Friday. 

Epstein’s lawyers argued in a Thursday letter to Berman that the earlier deal was a bar to a new prosecution. They asked for Epstein to be detained at home, with the Manhattan mansion securing his bond, camera surveillance and electronic monitoring, and said he was willing to pay armed guards to make sure he didn’t flee.

Prosecutors on Friday repeated arguments that the new case, with new victims and criminal acts in New York, wasn’t prohibited by the Florida plea deal, and said Epstein’s resources alone — six homes, including residences in Paris and an private island in the Caribbean, and a private jet — made him a flight risk.

Although he got permission to file details of his finances under seal, the government said it had records from one financial institution indicating he was worth more than $500 million and earned at least $10 million annually.

Prosecutors said their case was getting stronger, with several additional accusers coming forward since Epstein’s arrest last Saturday, and told Berman that alleged victims “said they were fearful” of harassment if he is released and opposed to letting him buy his way out by hiring private security.

“They believe it would be unfair to victims of a wealthy defendant, like Epstein, if he were to be given greater freedoms than others would be in similar circumstances,” prosecutors wrote.

Defense lawyers, in their bid for bail, told Berman that Epstein was no danger because he hadn’t been accused of any crimes during the past 14 years. Prosecutors said that claim was belied by the discovery of hundreds of nude pictures of apparently underage girls at his mansion last weekend.

The government memo also said Epstein was a danger because he made attempts to influence witnesses during the original probe in Florida in 2007, and argued that his “efforts to influence witnesses continue to this day” — a claim that appeared to be an overstatement.

The six-figure payments, it said, occurred last November and December, when the Herald stories appeared, to two individuals identified as accomplices in the 2007 Florida agreement. But the memo made no claim that he knew of a new federal probe last year, or took any actions in the last six months.


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