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Thursday, April 11, 2024 | Back issues
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Epstein victims fund shuts down after paying out $121M to 150 claimants

An independent coalition of lawyers, operating with input from the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, awarded more than $121 million to sexual assault victims of the late billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein.

(CN) — The Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program announced Monday its claim process has officially come to an end, after more than $121 million was awarded to about 150 sexual assault and harassment victims of Jeffrey Epstein since the program launched last year.

“I am proud of what we were able to accomplish with this program, but also recognize that no amount of money will erase the years of pain these victims have endured because of Jeffrey Epstein. My hope is that the program provided his victims a meaningful measure of justice and a step on the path toward healing,” the program's administrator, Jordana Feldman, said in a statement.

The disbursed funds were paid by the Epstein estate, which is still worth over $200 million. The compensation fund was established in June 2020 in response to lawsuits against the estate in the wake of the billionaire financier's death by apparent suicide in jail in August 2019.

The program was managed by Feldman, alongside an independent coalition of U.S. attorneys and with input from the Attorney General's Office of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned a private island.

“This important, independent program allowed victims/survivors who were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein to resolve their claims outside of court through a voluntary, confidential, fair, empathetic and expeditious process – beyond the glare of public proceedings and without the costs and confrontation of litigation," Feldman said.

Over 225 claims were submitted to the program over the course of a year, far more than the 100 or so claims a fund spokesperson said they originally anticipated. Individuals eligible to file a claim included those with pending lawsuits or claims of sexual abuse against Epstein and/or his estate, as well as those who had been independently identified as one of his victims.

In Monday's news release, the program said it reached out to many of the victims, though several also came to the program on their own initiative. About 150 individuals eventually received compensation.

Claims typically took between 60 and 90 days to process, and about 92% of all claimants that were offered compensation accepted it. According to the news release, the program had no oversight or input from the Epstein estate, which only agreed to cooperate with funding the program as an alternative to litigation with the many victims.

Instead, Feldman had the final word on who received a payment. Marci Hamilton, a sexual abuse expert and professor with the University of Pennsylvania, advised her in the claim approval process.

"Confidentiality served as a cornerstone of the program, allowing victims who otherwise may have been reluctant to come forward to participate without fear of public exposure," Feldman said.

She added, “Given the history of the Epstein case, we were also particularly mindful of the importance of providing claimants transparency into the claims process and offering them an opportunity to tell their stories. Every decision made and every action taken was rooted in these guiding principles."

Epstein's pattern of sexual exploitation of young women - many less than 16 years old - was first brought to law enforcement's attention in 2005, when the Palm Beach Police Department received a tip that a 14-year-old girl had been taken to his Florida mansion. The resulting investigation lasted more than a year and resulted in several charges of felony solicitation of prostitution, to which Epstein pleaded not guilty.

The FBI began its own investigation in 2006, and in 2008 Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for sex. He served prison time from 2008 to 2009, though during this time he was given preferential treatment by then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Alex Acosta and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. His privileges included getting to watch TV in the prison attorney room, having his cell door unlocked most of the time and being able to leave the prison for long stretches on work release, for which he was allowed to retain a private driver.

Despite Epstein's inclusion on several state sex offender registries by 2011, he was allowed to continue travelling between his homes in New York, New Mexico, Florida and the Virgin Islands with little law enforcement supervision for almost a decade. In July 2019, he was arrested by the FBI and the New York Police Department on sex-trafficking charges. He died in custody on August 10 of that year. An autopsy revealed a pattern of broken bones in his neck occasionally seen in hanging suicides but more common in homicides by strangulation, raising questions about the circumstances of his death.

Prior to his 2019 arrest, Epstein was known to associate with many wealthy and powerful people, including the Trump and Clinton families.

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Categories / Criminal, National

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