Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett. By. ERNICE GILBERT, V.I. CONSORTIUM
"Epstein was a reprehensible person and I'm truly disgusted by his actions," Congressional Delegate Stacey Plaskett said earlier this month, speaking out after filings in the ongoing lawsuit between the Government of the Virgin Islands and JPMorgan brought her acceptance of Jeffrey Epstein’s donations to her political campaigns to the fore once again.
Ms. Plaskett said that she was unaware of Epstein’s campaign contributions until after it was reported in the press subsequent to her campaign’s federal filing. However, newly unsealed evidence submitted by JPMorgan’s legal team show that Delegate Plaskett in 2018, had personally requested that an invitation to her Bloomberg fundraiser be sent to Epstein. “I would be grateful for his support and the support of those that he may direct to assist me," she wrote.
Email from Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett seeking support from Jeffrey Epstein and his circle of wealthy and powerful friends. (JPMorgan court filing)
The email was reportedly sent in July of 2018, just about a year before Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges. However, he was being investigated since March 2005 in Florida after the family of a 14-year-old girl reported that she was molested at his mansion. And in 2008, he pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting prostitution and one count of soliciting prostitution from someone under the age of 18. Additionally, at this point, multiple women had spent approximately a decade claiming that they had been groomed, trafficked and abused by the owner of Little St. James and his network of powerful friends.
It was a “bad fundraising decision” said Delegate Plaskett, when she appeared on WTJX FM talkshow “Analyze This” on June 8.
The unsealed documents add detail to JPMorgan’s claims that Epstein deliberately and methodically cultivated an influential network of politically powerful Virgin Islanders who he thought would help cushion him from the worst effects of his sex offender status. Plaskett denies ever leveraging her position to aid Epstein's business or illegal activities, and no such claims are being made by JPMorgan’s attorneys, or suggested in the documentary evidence they have submitted before the court.
However, one woman believed that the then-aspiring delegate would be helpful to her boss – Cecile DeJongh, who served dual roles as the office manager for Epstein’s local companies and the First Lady of the U.S. Virgin Islands, during her husband John P. de Jongh's term as governor.
At the center of the network
While it has already been argued that Mrs. DeJongh played a key role in identifying local political players who would be useful in service of Epstein’s agenda, the recently unsealed filings underscore just how enthusiastically she took up the task.
The idea of supporting Ms. Plaskett’s Congressional run seems to have initially come from Mrs. DeJongh. When former Senate President Sean Malone reportedly “came after” Epstein in a legislative hearing in June 2014, Mrs. DeJongh wrote to her employer, Epstein, “Your help is needed. We are trying to get Stacey Plaskett elected to Congress…we would have a friend in Stacey.”
Email from Former First Lady Cecile de Jongh to Jeffrey Epstein seeking support for Stacey Plaskett in the Delegate to Congress race, while calling for the defeat of then-Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone. (JP Morgan court filing)
By August of that year, Ms. Plaskett had beaten Malone in the Democratic Primary, in what was then reported as “one of the biggest upsets in Virgin Islands politics.”
The documents unsealed this week also provide further detail about the lengths to which Mrs. DeJongh, as Epstein’s loyal employee, sought to influence the legislative process. When in 2011 the Senate was considering the reporting regime that would be applied to sex offenders residing in the territory, Mrs. DeJongh crafted language that would be more favorable to her employer’s interests, and edited it according to his feedback. When Epstein’s preferred language did not make it into the amended legislation, Mrs. DeJongh suggested that he could work around the “horrible week” by cultivating senators who she considered friendly to “get around these obstacles,” while approaching Vincent Frazer, then-Attorney General, for discretion for status quo. “That’s the least he can do,” she wrote to Epstein. Frazer was AG under the administration of her husband, John P. de Jongh.
For her work in managing the offices of Epstein’s local companies, Mrs. DeJongh was handsomely compensated. A table showing figures from 2000-2009, entered as evidence in court, indicates that Mrs. De Jongh started the period at just over $58,000, however at the end of the 10-year period shown in the table, her compensation had jumped to over $163,000, which included tuition for her children at the Antilles School and Skidmore College in New York.
Former First Lady Cecile de Jongh's compensation chart while working for Jeffrey Epstein (JPMorgan court filing).
The newly-public documents also show that institutions in the U.S. Virgin Islands accepted Epstein — and his money — without many questions about his past and the rumors swirling around him.
In 2014, while scrutiny was being re-ignited around Epstein’s plea deal that allowed him to serve only 13 months in jail after being accused of pedophilia and major sex crimes, the V.I. Economic Development Authority, chaired by now-governor Albert Bryan Jr., approved the renewal of the South Trust Company’s tax benefits.
In December of that year, Financial Strategy Group, another of Epstein’s companies, received an International Banking Entity License from the Division of Banking and Insurance in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.
Certification of Tax Benefits in the Virgin Islands for the Financial Strategy Group (JP Morgan court filing)
The application, made in 2013, included a section for biographical details of the company’s principals - Jeffrey Epstein, Darren Indyke and Richard Khan. The write-up for Epstein noted that he had been investigated for “legal difficulties relating to matters alleged to have taken place…exclusively within Palm Beach, Florida.” The write-up notes that a federal investigation started in 2007 was discontinued the following year with no charges. The passage discloses Epstein’s guilty plea in 2008, and his 18-month sentence. It alleges that “no similar allegations or charges of any misconduct by Epstein since that period of time seven years ago” have been leveled, and lists both James E. Staley and JPMorgan as personal and banking references respectively. It is unclear based on the documents examined by the Consortium what kind of fit-and-proper persons requirement exists for holders of such licenses, nor is it understood whether any such investigation had been conducted with respect to this application.
Newly-nominated Attorney General candidate Ariel Smith says that these filings are an attempt by JPMorgan to cloud the issue and deflect blame away from their complicit actions in shielding Epstein from scrutiny. In a statement released on Friday, Ms. Smith said that “as Congress recognized, banks like JPMorgan are the first line of defense against human trafficking. They have access to real-time information about how bank customers use their accounts.”
This unprecedented access to information about how money flows through client accounts, argued Ms. Smith, means that banks “have a legal obligation to report suspected unlawful activity including signs of human trafficking.”
The bank’s lead lawyer, Ms. Smith said, wrote to his colleagues in 2011. According to her, he informed them that “Jeffrey Epstein is not an honorable person in any way and should not be a client.” The bank’s failure to act on that information, Ms. Smith argues, meant that authorities were not alerted to the magnitude of Epstein’s crimes.”
The attorney general nominee has characterized the release of information about Ms. Plasket, Mrs. DeJongh and other high-profile local politicians and officials as an attempt to “smear the great people of the virgin Islands for daring to hold the nation’s bank accountable.”
However, she stopped short of declaring the allegations and accusations, backed up by documentary evidence, untrue.
Ms. Smith vowed to continue “standing up for Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, for the people of this community and for the rule of law.”
While the government may be able to prove its case that JPMorgan facilitated Mr. Epstein’s continued sex trafficking operations by negligently failing to report suspicious transactions, the documents unearthed in the ongoing lawsuit raise serious questions about the character, integrity, and judgment of some of the highest-ranking members of the territory’s political class. Could Ms. Smith’s vow to “hold accountable those who violate all laws, pursuing justice for the people of the Virgin Islands” lead to, after the JPMorgan case is over, investigations into the conduct of the current and former public officials in the territory who were named in the documents filed by the bank’s attorneys?
That might depend on how strong Ms. Smith’s promise of “following the facts of every situation to wherever they lead” ultimately turns out to be.
At the beginning of the week, JPMorgan settled a separate lawsuit for almost $300 million. The suit, brought by an anonymous woman, claimed that the bank facilitated Mr. Epstein’s crimes by failing to flag his suspicious transactions.