FBI agents raided Jeffrey Epstein's private island in the Caribbean on Monday in a vivid display that the probe into his alleged sex trafficking ring is continuing despite his death.
A swarm of federal agents was seen fanning out across Little St. James in golf carts about 10:30 a.m.
"We were just trying to look at pretty fish and swim with turtles and here we are in the middle of an FBI raid," said Kelly Quinn, the owner of Salty Dog Day Sails, who was running a sailing charter in the area.
"This has been something on our radar for years," Quinn added. "We're all really curious why it's happening now."
Two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation confirmed that the FBI launched a search of Epstein's private island home off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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The search was directed by the Epstein task force led by the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, the officials said.
An office spokesperson declined to comment.
A law enforcement source said the search of Epstein's home and private island in the U.S. Virgin islands was suggested years ago, but evidently went nowhere.
The raid was launched two days after Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. He was pronounced dead at a lower Manhattan hospital. Multiple law enforcement officials said Epstein appeared to have hanged himself, but his official cause of death is pending.
Epstein had been held at the federal jail since July 6, when he was arrested on charges of trafficking and sexually abusing girls as young as 14 in the early 2000s. He was facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted on two counts of sex trafficking and conspiracy.
Steve Scully, an IT worker who worked on Epstein’s island from 1999 to 2006, said he often saw young women there and the main residence was filled with photos of topless girls — "the master bedroom, the office and the gymnasium certainly."
"I don't know if they were kids," Scully told NBC News last month. "They looked young to me."
The investigation into Epstein's alleged sex trafficking network is continuing despite his death, multiple top law enforcement officials have said.
"To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing," the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey Berman, said in a statement Saturday.
Rich Schapiro is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
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.
Jonathan Dienst is a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York, leading its investigative reporting team and covering justice and law enforcement issues.