Feds Eye Suspicious Epstein Payments After Herald Exposé

MANHATTAN (CN) – Two days after the Miami Herald renewed national attention to his decade-old plea deal, wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein started sending out wire payments from a trust under his control.

Jeffrey Epstein, center, is shown in custody in West Palm Beach, Fla., on July 30, 2008. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via AP, File)

Prosecutors picked apart those transactions to possible co-conspirators, totaling $350,000, on Friday afternoon in a motion seeking to deny him bail.

“As in the past, within recent months, he paid significant amounts of money to influence individuals who were close to him during the time period charged in this case and who might be witnesses against him at a trial,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller wrote in a 14-page memo.

The memo does not disclose the identities of the recipients, but prosecutors say one received $100,000 two days after the series of stories and the other collected $250,000 three days after that.

Prosecutors described both of these recipients as possible accomplices immunized by a non-prosecution agreement signed by former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who resigned today as secretary of labor amid criticism of his 2008 secret deal that treated Epstein’s alleged child sex-trafficking scheme as a case of soliciting prostitution.

Both the New York and Florida cases painted a similar portrait of how Epstein’s enablers recruited his victims: Each would find an underage girl, often vulnerable or destitute, and offer cash to give the tycoon a massage that would turn sexual.

Those girls in turn would be paid to lure others like them in a pyramid-like scheme that brought Epstein an untold number of victims, recently estimated by a federal judge in Florida to be more than 30.

Since Epstein’s arrest, that number has climbed as more dialed the tip line 1-800-CALL-FBI, and prosecutors say their ranks are growing.

“Just since the indictment was unsealed, several additional women, in multiple jurisdictions, have identified themselves to the government as having been victimized by the defendant when they were minors,” the memo states.

Epstein’s attorney Reid Weingarten requested on Thursday that his client await trial for sex-trafficking charges in the same $77 million Upper East Side mansion where prosecutors claim that he committed his crimes.

Just before his bail hearing on Monday, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman that Epstein’s victims oppose that request, and they have the right to be heard under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, or CVRA.

“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, and that such an arrangement would be inconsistent with their rights,” prosecutors wrote. “They specifically asked the government to advise the court that they believed such an arrangement could result in harassment and abuse by the defendant.”

By invoking the CVRA, Manhattan prosecutors signaled a key shift from the troubled plea deal from a decade ago, which violated that statute by shirking victim notification.

The memo opposing Epstein’s bail also sheds light on his murky finances.

Prosecutors disclosed for the first time that he has more than half a billion dollars in the account of one unnamed financial institution alone, which shows that he makes at least $10 million a year.

“Indeed, while the defendant has still not filled out a financial affidavit, under penalty of perjury, in connection with his application for bail, his token effort to account for his finances makes painfully clear the need for detention,” the memo states. “The defendant reports having an extraordinary amount of money in both total assets and cash or cash-equivalent holdings.”

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