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Breaking News / Crime / Featured / News / Top Stories / Virgin Islands / July 7, 2019

Billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, long accused of molesting minors, was arrested on Saturday and charged with sex-trafficking offenses, according to multiple reports by U.S. mainland news houses, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. This latest development is a dramatic turn of events for Mr. Epstein, who had avoided arrest for over a decade in a plea deal that was often criticized as too lenient for the alleged activities with little girls.

Mr. Epstein, 66, owns a mansion on an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands that he also owns, called Little Saint James. Charges against the financier also allege that the USVI home was part of Mr. Epstein’s sex trafficking operation. According to The Journal, he is expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Monday. The charges relate to alleged activity between 2002 and 2005 in New York and Florida, the publication said, citing a person with knowledge of the charges.

He is expected to be charged with one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy.

Mr. Epstein is a former asset manager who has been friends with a number of high profile individuals, including Former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, President Donald Trump, among other world leaders and influential businesspeople.

According to The Journal, within the past five months, Manhattan federal prosecutors have spoken with lawyers for women who allege Mr. Epstein and several associates recruited dozens of teenage girls for sex, keeping them for his sexual abuse at his properties and lending them out to his friends and business associates.

Lawyer David Boies, who is representing three women who allege Mr. Epstein sexually abused them, said Saturday night: “We are grateful that the prosecutors have taken this important step towards securing justice for the many victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring.” 

Last week, a federal appeals court ordered the unsealing of materials with redactions in a federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan by one of Mr. Epstein’s alleged victims against British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been accused of recruiting girls for Mr. Epstein. Ms. Maxwell has denied the allegations.

According to The Times, in the Florida investigation, authorities found that Mr. Epstein paid cash to dozens of girls, some of them as young as 14 or 15, to give him nude massages that often ended in masturbation, oral sex or, in at least one case, rape. 

Some of the girls were runaways or foster children; Mr. Epstein would ask some girls to recruit others to bring to his properties. The encounters took place from 1999 to 2005, according to the investigation.

According to court records, in a 2007 interview with the F.B.I., one girl shared that at age 15 she began visiting Mr. Epstein and gave him massages — both in her underwear and then nude — for $200 each. 

The investigation found that over time, the encounters became increasingly sexual. Mr. Epstein also allegedly got the girl to bring other girls who worked with her at a local strip club.

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