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Who is Jeffrey Epstein? Facts about the wealthy financier facing child sex trafficking charges

Lawyer estimates Epstein had 50+ victims
Lawyer estimates Epstein had 50+ victims 05:08

Despite his years of notoriety, there is still much that is not known about Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier charged this week with child sex trafficking and alleged to have abused dozens of underage girls as young as 14 over a number of years.

New York magazine described him as an "international moneyman of mystery" in a 2002 profile. Author James Patterson, who wrote a book about the Epstein scandal, called him "a total mystery person," albeit one who spent time in the upper echelons of American society.

His list of friends acquaintances made up a "Who's Who" of prominent businessmen, celebrities and political figures. "It's Gatsby," Patterson told CBSN on Tuesday. "He liked to be around famous people and he liked to throw parties. Epstein liked stars."  

Financier and alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein 

Here is what we know about Jeffrey Epstein: 

Epstein is a native New Yorker with homes around the world

Epstein was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York, where his father worked for the city's park's department. Even though he never acquired a college degree, Epstein landed a job as a physics and math teacher in the 1970s at the Dalton School, a prestigious private school in Manhattan. He was reportedly hired by then-headmaster Donald Barr, father of Attorney General William Barr, according to Newsweek. 

According to federal prosecutors, Epstein owns numerous properties: A multimillion-dollar Manhattan townhouse; a Palm Beach estate; a ranch in New Mexico; a home in Paris; and a private island in the Caribbean. He also owns two private jets. 

It's unclear where he made his money

Epstein worked at the Bear Stearns investment bank from 1976 to 1981. According to the Miami Herald, "he was a derivative specialist, applying complex math formulas and computer algorithms to evaluate financial data and trends." Vanity Fair reported in 2003 that he left the firm in 1981 in a dispute with the executive committee about a possible regulatory violation, allegedly lending money to a friend for a stock purchase.  

Epstein has told interviewers at New York magazine and Vanity Fair that he went into private wealth management shortly thereafter, setting up J. Epstein & Co. 

Forbes said he is not a billionaire and he has never appeared on the magazine's list of 400 richest Americans. According to Forbes, "The source of his wealth — a money management firm in the U.S. Virgin Islands — generates no public records, nor has his client list ever been released." 

Epstein has claimed in magazine profiles that he manages the money from a private list of billionaire clients, but only one known client has ever been identified: Leslie Wexner, the founder of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, The Limited and other assets.

According to Bloomberg, "Today, so little is known about Epstein's current business or clients that the only things that can be valued with any certainty are his properties." 

Epstein has notable business and political connections

Former President Bill Clinton acknowledged flying on Epstein's private plane four times, along with staff members and a security detail, but stressed that he "knows nothing about the terrible crimes" Epstein has been charged with. 

President Donald Trump spoke about his relationship with Epstein  in a 2002 New York magazine interview: "I've known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side." 

This week, Mr. Trump said, "He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn't a fan."  

Billionaire Leslie Wexner has been described as Epstein's "patron and mentor" by New York magazine. The New York Times reports Wexner is "the apparent foundation of Mr. Epstein's riches." According to New York magazine, Wexner transferred ownership of his sprawling townhouse at 9 East 71st Street in Manhattan, where many of Epstein's crimes were allegedly committed, without money changing hands, though the townhouse has been valued as high as $77 million. The New York Times describes the transaction as one where "Mr. Wexner conveyed his interest in the corporation that owned it to one controlled by Mr. Epstein for $20 million, according to a person familiar with the transaction."

Financier Teenage Girls
The Manhattan residence of Jeffrey Epstein, on July 8, 2019. Prosecutors said federal agents found "nude photographs of what appeared to be underage girls" while searching the mansion. Bebeto Matthews / AP

Epstein has been linked to British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who Vanity Fair described in 2003 as "his most public companion of the last decade." A 2002 New York magazine profile quoted a society journalist who described Epstein and Maxwell as "soul mates." 

Maxwell was sued by one of Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Roberts, in 2015. The federal suit claimed Maxwell recruited Roberts and other underaged girls to perform sex acts on Epstein in his Florida and New York homes. Maxwell settled with Roberts for an unknown sum in 2017 and has repeatedly denied the allegations. She has never been charged.  

According to Vanity Fair, Epstein's other prominent friends over the years have also included Britain's Prince Andrew, Nobel Prize winners Gerald Edelman and Murray Gell-Mann, and lawyer Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz told Vanity Fair in 2003, "I'm on my 20th book…. The only person outside of my immediate family that I send drafts to is Jeffrey." 

Epstein was first arrested in Palm Beach, Florida in 2006

According to The Washington Post, a prosecution memo from the time said Epstein and several female assistants "would recruit underage females to travel to his home in Palm Beach to engage in lewd conduct in exchange for money . . . Some went there as much as 100 times or more. Some of the women's conduct was limited to performing a topless or nude massage while Mr. Epstein masturbated himself. For other women, the conduct escalated to full sexual intercourse."

Under the terms of his 2008 plea deal, which was worked out in secret with the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time, Alex Acosta, Epstein pleaded guilty to lesser state charges. He served 13 months in county jail but was allowed to leave each day to work at his office. He was also required to register as a sex offender. The deal is now being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department.

Epstein's alleged victims were are young as 14 and may number as many as 100

In the years since allegations against Epstein first surfaced, a number of women have gone public with their stories. Courtney Wild, 30, told The Miami Herald she was a victim of Epstein's beginning at the age of 14. Virginia Roberts, 35, told the Miami Herald she was used as a sex slave for Jeffrey Epstein for years starting at the age of 16. Jennifer Araoz, now 32, told NBC News that Epstein raped her in his New York mansion when she was 15. 

In the Florida investigation last decade, Palm Beach Detective Joe Recarey said his team found naked photographs of underage girls in Epstein's closet. 

According to Federal prosecutors, the July 2019 raid of Epstein's Upper East Side townhouse uncovered "a vast trove of lewd photographs of young-looking women or girls in his Manhattan mansion." Federal prosecutors said law enforcement found "compact discs with hand-written labels including the following: 'Young [Name] + [Name],' 'Misc nudes 1,' and 'Girls pics nude.'" 

According to the Miami Herald, during the initial investigation in Florida, "there would be many Jane Does to follow: Jane Doe No. 3, Jane Doe No. 4, Jane Does 5, 6, 7, 8 — and as the years went by — Jane Does 102 and 103."  

Sexual Misconduct-Epstein
In this Monday, July 8, 2019 photo, Michelle Licata, right, and Courtney Wild, left, leave federal court after wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein appeared for his arraignment in New York. Licata and Wild, two of Epstein's accusers, say they feel empowered after he was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.  Seth Wenig / AP
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