Jeffrey Epstein paid $350K to 'influence' possible co-conspirators: prosecutors

Prosecutors said the payments were made last November just days after the publication of a bombshell Miami Herald story.
A protester holds up a placard with a photo of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the federal courthouse on July 8, 2019, in New York.Stephanie Keith / Getty Images
By Tom Winter and Rich Schapiro

Accused child sex predator Jeffrey Epstein wired a total of $350,000 to a pair of possible co-conspirators just days after the publication of a newspaper story alleging he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, federal prosecutors said Friday.

The prosecutors said the payments, which were made last November after the bombshell Miami Herald story came out, demonstrate Epstein's willingness to tamper with witnesses.

"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 in light of the recently re-emerging allegations," the prosecutors wrote in court papers arguing that Epstein should remain behind bars until his trial.

Epstein wired $100,000 to one of his associates two days after the story was published, the court papers say. Three days later, he sent $250,000 to someone identified as one of his employees, prosecutors said. Neither of the two were named, but both were said to be possible co-conspirators in the alleged sex crimes that were the subject of the Miami Herald article.

"Epstein’s efforts to influence witnesses continue to this day," the prosecutors wrote.

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Epstein's lawyers did not immediately return a request for comment.

Epstein is facing up to 45 years in prison on allegations that he sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his homes in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. Epstein is also accused of paying his victims to recruit others, allowing him to build a vast network of girls to exploit. He has pleaded not guilty.

Epstein's lawyers proposed that he be held under house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77 million New York City mansion. But prosecutors said in the new court papers that the wealthy financier is worth more than $500 million and poses a considerable flight risk.

"The defendant is an incredibly sophisticated financial actor with decades of experience in the industry and significant ties to financial institutions and actors around the world," the court papers say. "He could easily transfer funds and holdings on a moment's (notice) to places where the government would never find them so as to ensure he could live comfortably while a fugitive."

The prosecutors also said multiple victims have told the government "they would be fearful for their safety" if Epstein were released from jail.

Epstein's attempts to obstruct the investigation follow a pattern that began more than a decade ago when he was being investigated for similar crimes in Palm Beach, Florida, the court papers say.

"Police reports suggest that an associate of Epstein’s was offering to buy victims’ silence during the course of the prior investigation," the court papers say.

One victim told investigators that an Epstein associate told her she would be compensated for refusing to cooperate with police, according to a 2006 Palm Beach Police report cited by the prosecutors.

"Indeed, the victim reported having been told: 'Those who help him will be compensated and those who hurt him will be dealt with,'" the court papers say.

Epstein was arrested Saturday after his private plane landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Federal prosecutors in New York charged him with sex trafficking and conspiracy more than a decade after he signed a controversial non-prosecution deal. The once-secret 2007 agreement ended a federal sex crimes investigation against him and spared him the prospect of a long prison sentence.

Instead, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution and served 13 months at Palm Beach county jail. Epstein was also required to register as a sex offender and pay his restitution to his victims.

President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, Alex Acosta, who had overseen the deal as the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time, announced his plans to resign Friday amid the simmering controversy.

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Earlier this week, a new Epstein accuser spoke out for the first time, telling NBC News that he raped her when she was 15.

Jennifer Araoz, 32, said she was 14 years old when she was recruited outside her New York City high school to provide sexual massages for Epstein. A year later, she said, he turned violent.

"He raped me, forcefully raped me," Araoz said in an exclusive interview. "He knew exactly what he was doing."

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

Rich Schapiro

Rich Schapiro is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.