ST. THOMAS — Despite Jeffrey Epstein’s 2008 guilty plea in Florida on felony charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution, the Virgin Islands Department of Justice considers the jet-setting multibillionaire a low-risk sex offender, subject to the minimal scrutiny and reporting requirements.
Mr. Epstein, 66, who identifies Little St. James as his primary residence, is listed as a Tier I sex offender on the Virgin Islands Sex Offender Registry maintained by the VIDOJ. As such, Mr. Epstein is required to appear in-person at the department to “register” one time per year. The most serious offenders – those listed as Tier III – must check-in every 90 days.
“Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to authorities in Florida to the crime of procuring a minor under the age of 18 for prostitution, which is similar to the U.S. Virgin Islands’ sex offense of prohibition on solicitation and use of minors in prostitution,” said Department of Justice spokesperson Corliss Smithen. “That crime is listed in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ statute as a Tier I offense. Epstein is classified as a Tier 1 offender because of the similarities of these offenses.”
Community advocates say law enforcement has done far too little to monitor or investigate Epstein’s activities in the territory. “I am angry and I am disgusted by this,” said Clema Lewis, executive director of the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix and member of the St. Croix Child Abuse Task Force.
“People have called from everywhere and they know about this ‘Pedophile Island.’ People in our community know about this and have been talking about this for years. But what has been done?
“It really says something about our community that this person has been allowed to use these islands in this way,” Ms. Lewis said. “Has anyone – police or the Department of Justice – done anything to find out what has gone on over there in (Little) St. James island? Have they investigated? For all we know, there are victims in this territory now.”
According to Ms. Smithen, there is no current VIDOJ investigation involving Mr. Epstein. “As of today, the Department of Justice has not received any formal complaints regarding any alleged criminal activity by Jeffrey Epstein,” Ms. Smithen said in a written response to a series of Consortium questions about Mr. Epstein’s sex offender status and reporting requirements.
Every March, Mr. Epstein is required to present himself to authorities to complete a registration form updating his physical description – his height, weight, hair-color – and personal information, including his residence in the Virgin Islands, employment, email and other “Internet identifiers” and a list of vehicles.
According to the VIDOJ, Mr. Epstein’s last registration was on March 15th.
A Quick Stop
Along with the Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, Hummer and a fleet of 27 other vehicles, the sex offender registry lists a black Gulfstream G550 business jet (one of two Gulfstreams and a Bell 430 black helicopter) belonging to Mr. Epstein.
On March 14, publicly available flight records show Mr. Epstein’s G550 taxiing into the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas. The next day, Mr. Epstein checked-in with the VIDOJ, and by 7:15 p.m., the plane was wheels-up for a two-hour flight to Palm Beach, Fla.
“He flew in, he flew out,” Ms. Lewis said. “That’s how a convicted sex trafficker is monitored in the Virgin Islands? It gives the impression that we are all OK with this. We are not.”
In the territory, registered sexual offenders are classified into tiers – I, II and III – based on the sexual offense they were convicted of.
Ms. Smithen said offenders on the registry are also subject to random “compliance checks” to verify addresses, contact information and whether the offender resides within a one-mile radius of a school or child-care facility. A compliance check on Mr. Epstein’s Little St. James took place a year ago, Ms. Smithen said.
Mr. Epstein is listed on sex offender registries in three other states: Florida, New York and New Mexico. In New York, Mr. Epstein was assigned a Level III offender, the most serious. He was required to personally verify his address every 90 days. According to the New York Post newspaper, Mr. Epstein never fulfilled that in-person verification requirement.
Florida requires offenders convicted of sex crimes involving minors to register with the state Department of Law Enforcement four times per year. New Mexico requires registration once every six months.