What was Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express’?

Long-time pilot of disgraced financier was among those interviewed during Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial

Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 30 December 2021 13:39 GMT
Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial gets underway

Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty on five of six counts at a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, after witnesses including a former pilot for Jeffrey Epstein took the stand.

Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr, Epstein’s chief pilot for more than 25 years, was the first person to take the stand at the beginning of the trial this month, He said he had flown the disgraced financier “every four days” or so since his hiring in 1991, as well as Ms Maxwell.

The former British socialite who was accused of recruiting and grooming underage girls for the sexual gratification of the billionaire paedophile between 1994 and 2004, and now faces a life long sentence.

One of the pilot’s duties was to fly the Boeing 727 that became known among the press as the “Lolita Express” for its role in ferrying young women between New York and Epstein’s primary residence in Palm Beach, Florida, where many of his alleged acts of sexual abuse are said to have taken place.

Epstein also had homes in New Mexico and on his private Caribbean island of Little Saint James and was known for partying with such high-profile friends as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

The nickname for the plane is an allusion to Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov’s notorious book Lolita (1955), about a literary professor who becomes sexually obsessed with his 12-year-old stepdaughter.

Epstein’s victims have since claimed that the Boeing had padded floors and a large bed installed so that his guests could have sex with the girls he had lured aboard mid-flight.

The financier, who originally made his money as a trader with investment bank Bear Stearns before becoming a consultant, is understood to have sold the plane at some point prior to his arrest on 6 July 2019.

He was found dead in his New York jail cell a month later, seemingly having taken his own life.

The New York Post reported last August that Epstein’s plane had been left to rot in a long-term storage area at Brunswick Golden Isles Airport in southeastern Georgia, “deregistered” in October 2019, with its last flight more than four years previously and its engines since stripped away.

The newspaper also interviewed James McCloskey, an aviation consultant who had recently toured the aircraft on behalf of a company that buys up old planes for use in Hollywood movies.

“When you get inside the aircraft, it’s a playground. Everything lays out to be a bed. That was kind of creepy,” he said.

“It’s not like the aircraft is set up for a business meeting – because it’s not. There’s no chairs for anyone to sit in, except for the lie-flat chairs.”

Mr McCloskey also observed that its decor was strangely out of step with modern tastes: “You get on Epstein’s airplane and it’s decorated from the 1970s. I mean, you would almost think that Elvis flew on this thing because it’s like velour, and bright red colours.”

Photographs taken with a view to selling the aircraft shortly afterwards confirmed the presence of the queen-size bed and revealed that the 29-seater plane did indeed have a luxury interior with red velvet armchairs and sofas populating the lounge, mahogany or teak desks, mirrored wardrobes, an en suite shower and a galley kitchen and dining area.

In September 2020, flight logs relating to the Boeing and other planes used by Epstein were subpoenaed by Denise George, attorney general for the US Virgin Islands, prompting feverish speculation as to which famous names might eventually be revealed as having flown in his company.

Speaking in court earlier this month, Mr Visoski said he had often spoken with Ms Maxwell when she called to schedule flights on Epstein’s behalf.

Asked about the exact nature of her relationship with the late financier, the captain answered that she was Epstein’s second-in-command and that it appeared to be “more personal than business” but added: “I wouldn’t characterise it as romantic.”

Ms Maxwell was found guilty on five of six charges after a 12-person jury reached a verdict on Wednesday. A date for her sentencing has not been announced.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in