NEW YORK (AP) — Eleven years after letting Jeffrey Epstein off lightly with a secret deal, federal prosecutors made another run at putting the billionaire financier behind bars on sex charges, accusing him Monday of abusing dozens of underage girls as young as 14.
The 66-year-old hedge fund manager who once socialized with some of the world’s most powerful people was charged in a newly unsealed indictment with sex trafficking and conspiracy and could get up to 45 years in prison.
Prosecutors said the evidence included a “vast trove” of hundreds or even thousands of lewd photographs of young women or girls, discovered in a search of his New York mansion.
Epstein, who was arrested over the weekend as he arrived in the U.S. from Paris aboard his private jet, was brought into court Monday in a blue jail uniform, his hair disheveled, and pleaded not guilty. His lawyers argued that the matter had been settled a decade ago with a plea agreement in Florida involving similar allegations.
“This is ancient stuff,” Epstein attorney Reid Weingarten said in court, calling the case essentially a “redo” by the government.
The defendant was ordered jailed for a bail hearing next Monday, when prosecutors plan to argue that the rich world traveler might flee if released.
Epstein was accused of paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then molesting them at his homes in Florida and New York from 2002 through 2005.
He “intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18,” prosecutors said. He also allegedly paid some of his victims to recruit additional girls.
“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach,” prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of New York said that the non-prosecution agreement that spared Epstein from a heavy prison sentence a decade ago is binding only on federal prosecutors in Florida, where the deal was made, not on authorities in New York.
“While the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims — now young women,” Berman said. “They deserve their day in court. We are proud to be standing up for them by bringing this indictment.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller said that while there is some overlap between the Florida and New York cases, one of the counts against Epstein is based entirely on New York victims.
Federal authorities said new accusers have come forward since Epstein’s arrest, and they urged other possible victims to contact the FBI.
Some of Epstein’s accusers welcomed the indictment.
“The news of my abuser’s arrest today is a step in the right direction to finally hold Epstein accountable for his crimes and restore my faith that power and money can’t triumph over justice,” Sarah Ransome said through her lawyer.
Prosecutors in New York are seeking the forfeiture of Epstein’s mansion, a seven-story, 21,000-square-foot townhouse less than a block from Central Park. The home, formerly a prep school, is across the street from a home owned by Bill Cosby and has been valued at approximately $77 million.
Epstein, who is unmarried and whose friends have included President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew, was arrested Saturday at an airport in New Jersey, just outside New York City. Prosecutors said they would oppose his release on bail.
“He has enormous wealth. The charges are very serious and carry with them a maximum sentence of 45 years, which to someone of Epstein’s age is basically a life sentence,” Berman said, “so we think he has every incentive to try and flee the jurisdiction.”