Jeffrey Epstein: How the sex-trafficking investigation could shed light on corruption

Alexander Acosta after becoming Dean of the Florida International University College of Law 2009

On Monday, U.S. prosecutors in NY accused Epstein, 66, of sex trafficking in an indictment that detailed how he lured dozens of girls, some as young as 14, to his luxury homes and coerced them into performing sex acts.

The case deals with allegations that Epstein, a 66-year-old hedge fund manager, paid underage girls for massages and molested them at his homes in Florida and NY, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press. He also paid some of his victims to "recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein", the indictment said.

Epstein has said in court filings that his encounters with alleged victims were consensual and that he believed they were 18 when they occurred.

The arrest of the billionaire financier on child sex trafficking charges is raising questions about how much his high-powered associates knew about the hedge fund manager's interactions with underage girls, and whether they turned a blind eye to potentially illegal conduct.

At a news conference, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, said a police raid on Epstein's Manhattan property resulted in the seizure of what appeared to be photos of naked girls.

Clinton spokesman Angel Ureña said the former president "knows nothing about the awful crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in NY".

A protest group called "Hot Mess" hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the Federal courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York City on July 8, 2019.

He faces one count of sex trafficking and one of sex trafficking conspiracy.

Acosta has defended the agreement as appropriate, though the White House said in February that it was looking into his handling of the case.

"With the evidence available more than a decade ago, federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator".

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Some of Epstein's accusers welcomed the indictment.

On Monday, Berman, the federal prosecutor in NY, said he was not a signatory to the Florida agreement and that there was no legal impediment to bringing the new charges.

"The Southern District of NY is not bound by that agreement and is not a signatory to that agreement".

Attorney-General William Barr declined to comment on Mr Epstein's case and would not offer an opinion on whether federal prosecutors mishandled it initially, saying he had recused himself from the matter.

The criminal case against Epstein has been assigned to the Public Corruption Unit of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office.

The Duke and former duchess have since distanced themselves from Epstein, and Prince Andrew has strenuously denied allegations he engaged in an orgy at Epstein's mansion on Little Saint James island. Often they would be invited to carry out a massage nude before being subjected to sexual abuse, it says. A series of articles in the Miami Herald in November led to court challenges to the deal Mr Acosta brokered.

Federal prosecutors recently filed court papers in the Florida case contending the deal must stand. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Epstein's victims should have been consulted under the law about the deal, and he is now weighing whether to invalidate the agreement.

"The past can not be undone; the Government committed itself to the NPA, and the parties have not disputed that Epstein complied with its provisions", prosecutors wrote.

Opinion: Do charges against Jeffrey Epstein signal "bigger targets"?

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