NEW YORK — Investigators seized nude photographs of underage girls from the Manhattan town house of financier Jeffrey Epstein as part of a new investigation into allegations he exploited dozens of minors for sex, prosecutors revealed Monday.
That detail was mentioned by federal prosecutors Monday as they unsealed an indictment charging Epstein with sex trafficking and made an appeal to other women who may have been abused by him to come forward.
“They deserve their day in court and we are proud to stand up for them by bringing this indictment,” said Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
Epstein, 66, is accused of engaging in sex acts with dozens of vulnerable minors, some as young as 14, during naked massage sessions, then paying them hundreds of dollars in cash.
He also asked some of the girls to recruit other underage girls, the indictment said.
“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach,” the indictment said.
Berman’s decision to seek an indictment in Manhattan was an implicit rebuke to the decision by prosecutors in Miami in 2008 to enter an agreement with Epstein that allowed him to avoid federal prosecution and a possible life sentence.
Under that deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges and spent about a year in a Palm Beach jail. He was permitted to leave the facility six days a week to work.
Berman made it clear his office was not bound by the agreement, which was overseen by Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney in Miami who is now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor.
“That agreement, by its terms, only binds the Southern District of Florida,” Berman said.
The agreement has been examined in a series of reports in The Miami Herald and is being challenged in court. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Epstein’s accusers should have been consulted about the deal before it was signed.
The indictment unsealed in Manhattan on Monday said that from 2002 to 2005 Epstein and his employees engaged in a sex trafficking scheme, bringing underage girls to his Manhattan mansion and his palatial compound in Palm Beach, Florida, to engage in sex acts with him.
He is charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy. He faces a combined maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison if convicted. Berman said prosecutors would seek to have Epstein held without bail, given his immense wealth and access to private jets.
Prosecutors are also seeking the forfeiture of Epstein’s town house mansion, which has been called one of the largest town houses in Manhattan. It contains at least seven floors and covers 21,000 square feet.
The indictment said Epstein used employees and assistants to arrange sexual rendezvous with at least one girl at his New York City residence and two at his home in Palm Beach.
Epstein is accused of having the girls perform nude massages, at which point he would masturbate and touch their genitals with his hands or with sex toys.
The girls were paid hundreds of dollars in cash for each encounter and, once recruited, were asked to return to the mansion several times, where they were abused again, the indictment said. Epstein, the court documents read, “created a similar network of minor girls to victimize” in Florida.
“This conduct, as alleged, went on for years and involved dozens of young girls, some as young as 14,” Berman said. “The alleged behavior shocks the conscience.”
The charges unsealed Monday by the Southern District of New York signal a prosecution that some of his accusers have been awaiting for years.
Accusations of pedophilia and sexual predation have dogged Epstein for decades. And now, in the -MeToo era, his case has been held up as a prime example of insulated, powerful men avoiding accountability.
For more than a decade, Epstein, a hedge fund manager, avoided a lengthy prison sentence, largely because of the plea agreement his lawyers struck with federal prosecutors in 2008.
Epstein’s social circle is filled with other high-profile connections, including to former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain and a host of others.
In 2002, Trump described Epstein as “a terrific guy.”
“He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump told New York Magazine. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
The charges unsealed Monday mirror those that federal prosecutors had prepared in Miami against Epstein more than a decade ago. In 2005, law enforcement officials there investigated Epstein after the parents of one of his accusers reported an incident to police.
As first reported in The Miami Herald last year, prosecutors had prepared a 53-page indictment accusing Epstein of being a sexual predator. But those charges were shelved in 2008 after an eleventh-hour deal was reached between the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami and Epstein’s lawyers.
The plea agreement granted Epstein immunity from federal prosecution and let him plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Federal prosecutors arranged for the plea deal to be kept secret from Epstein’s accusers until it was finalized in court.
In April, a federal judge ruled that prosecutors had violated the law in offering the plea agreement without informing Epstein’s accusers. The Justice Department also opened a probe into the incident in February.