news 6 days ago

FBI raids Jeffrey Epstein's 'pedophile island' estate as investigation continues

The Miami Herald — Daniel Chang The Miami Herald

Aug. 13-- Aug. 13--On the same day Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on arrival at a New Jersey airport on sex trafficking charges, federal agents bashed in the door of his $77 million Manhattan mansion and seized evidence to aid in his prosecution. But the multimillionaire's Virgin Islands hideaway, where the wealthy hedge fund manager allegedly trafficked girls for sex and entertained politicians, businessmen and scientists, seemingly remained untouched by the law.

That changed Monday.

FBI agents -- accompanied by Customs personnel, local police and New York City officers, according to a Virgin Islands source -- fanned out in golf carts across Epstein's estate on Little St. James Island. They scooped up evidence just two days after Epstein was found dead in his jail cell of an apparent suicide while in federal custody in Manhattan.

The raid underscores that the criminal investigation into Epstein will continue despite his death while awaiting trial in New York City. Ultimately, prosecutors could expose an alleged sex trafficking conspiracy with tentacles across the financier's vast real estate holdings, including opulent homes in New York, Palm Beach, New Mexico and Paris.

Federal prosecutors had said in an indictment that they intended to confiscate Epstein's properties if they were used to facilitate the sexual abuse of minors. That hasn't changed, although Epstein's death before he could be brought to trial may complicate matters.

The secluded spit of land, sometimes referred to as "pedophile island" in the aftermath of Epstein's initial prosecution in 2007-2008, has hosted Epstein's rich and famous friends and associates over the years in addition to his ever-present entourage of young women.

Epstein, who developed an intense interest in scientific discovery, also invited renowned scientists to join him there for conferences.

He bought the island for $7.95 million in 1998, and built an extravagant estate with a 24,000-square-foot private home, swimming pools, cabanas and other structures on a 70-acre swath of oceanfront land studded with palm trees.

Any evidence seized in the raid could prove key to prosecutors as they seek to press charges against Epstein's associates, as Attorney General William Barr promised they will. The earlier raid of Epstein's Manhattan home following his arrest yielded a passport under a fake name, assorted diamonds, nude and semi-nude photographs of possible minors and other evidence suggesting a complex criminal enterprise.

It was not clear why authorities waited more than a month between Epstein's arrest and the raid on his island home.

Epstein, 66, was found dead Saturday morning in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, one day after a federal court unsealed nearly 2,000 pages of Epstein-related documents that offered sordid details of the alleged trafficking of girls by the financier and his ex-girlfriend and purported madam, Ghislaine Maxwell.

The documents alleged a conspiracy that took place over a number of years in the early- to mid-2000s, with Epstein's island -- and his waterfront estate in Palm Beach -- as frequent backdrops.

In one record released Friday, a butler described an interaction he'd had with a 15-year-old au pair who came to the United States from Sweden. The butler, who like the au pair worked for two of Epstein's close friends, said she had been taken to the private island and ordered to have sex with Epstein and others. In his sworn statement, the butler said that the girl, distraught and sobbing, told him that Epstein and Maxwell had physically threatened her and taken her passport to keep her on the island.

In other sworn testimony, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, said that Epstein once held a dinner for Bill Clinton on the island. The former president, who has acknowledged traveling multiple times on Epstein's private jet, has denied ever being on Little St. James.

David Boies, attorney for Giuffre, said none of the evidence in the file -- generated as part of a slander suit by Giuffre against Maxwell -- implicated Clinton or one of Epstein's other close friends, President Donald Trump, in any sexual wrongdoing.

Epstein had been held since July 6, when he was arrested at New Jersey's Teterboro airport upon arrival in his private jet after a flight from Paris. He was facing allegations of trafficking and sexually abusing girls as young as 14 -- alleged activities dating back to the early 2000s.

On Monday, Attorney General Barr pledged an aggressive investigation into the federally operated jail where Epstein had been held and where he had reportedly tried to take his life weeks earlier.

"We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and that demand a thorough investigation," Barr said in New Orleans while addressing the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Barr also said the Justice Department will seek out all conspirators who enabled Epstein to carry out his alleged crimes.

"Any co-conspirators should not rest easy," he said.

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