Jeffrey Epstein: Paedophile and former Trump associate denied bail in child sex trafficking case

Cash, jewels and dubious passport among possessions found at New York apartment makes financier a flight risk, prosecution argued

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 18 July 2019 17:35
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NBC coverage from 1992 shows Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein discussing women at Mar-a-Lago party

US financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been denied bail ahead of his trial on sex trafficking charges.

The decision by a federal judge means Epstein will remain behind bars, despite the offer of a large bail package.

Prosecutors had argued Epstein should remain jailed while he fights the charges he exploited dozens of girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. They say due to his wealth he has the means to flee and is a flight risk.

But his defence team had said he should be allowed to await trial under house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77m (£62m) Manhattan mansion. They said he won’t try to flee and would be willing to pledge a fortune of at least $559m (£447m) as collateral.

At a hearing earlier this week, assistant US attorney Alex Rossmiller said the government’s case against Epstein was “getting stronger every single day” as more women contact authorities to say he sexually abused them when they were minors.

One of his accusers who said she was sexually abused by Epstein when she was 14 in Palm Beach, Florida, pleaded with the judge to keep him jailed.

“He’s a scary person to have walking the streets,” Courtney Wild said during the Monday hearing.

One of the reasons prosecutors argued Epstein posed a particular flight risk was the abundance of cash and jewels found in a safe during a raid by police at his New York property. They found $70,000 in cash alongside 48 loose diamonds, including some more than 2 carats, and a diamond ring.

Furthermore, they found an expired foreign passport featuring a photograph of Epstein, but in a different name and which had been used in four countries.

Mr Epstein’s lawyers had argued the document had been given to him by a friend and had already been used when he got it, and the reason he had it was because “some Jewish-Americans were informally advised at the time to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally in case of hijacking.”

First assistant US attorney Alison Moe said for the prosecution: “The government is currently unaware of whether the defendant maintains similar stashes of cash and/or jewels at his multiple properties.

“Such ready cash and loose diamonds are consistent with the capability to leave the jurisdiction at a moment’s notice.”

Speaking about the passport found at his house, she said it shows Epstein knew how to obtain false travel documents and added to the risk he may flee the US.

On Monday, federal agents said they had also found “nude photographs of what appeared to be underage girls” while searching his Manhattan mansion.

Prosecutors have also argued Epstein was a risk of trying to influence witnesses after it was discovered he had paid a total of $350,000 to two people, including a former employee, in the last year. 

The news of the payments came after the Miami Herald reported the circumstances of his state court conviction in 2008, which led to a 13-month jail term and a plea deal that allowed him to avoid a federal prosecution.

Donald Trump’s labour secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last week after coming under renewed criticism for overseeing the decade-old arrangement while he was US attorney in Miami.

Lawyers for Epstein said their client has stayed clean since pleading guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution charges in Florida in 2008 and that the federal government is reneging on the plea deal.

On Wednesday, old footage of Mr Trump and Epstein at a party surfaced after the president tried to distance himself from the sex offender. 

In the footage, Mr Trump is seen dancing with young women and sharing an exchange with Epstein. The conversation is largely drowned out by loud music, Mr Trump is seen pointing at women and appearing to say to Epstein: “Look at her back there – she’s hot.”

When asked about his relationship with Epstein following the financier’s arrest this month, Mr Trump said he “knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him”. 

But Mr Trump added: “I had a falling out with him. I haven’t spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.”

But in a 2002 profile of Epstein in New York magazine, it appears Mr Trump was once on friendlier terms. He is quoted as saying: “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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