Live

Watch CBSN Live

Jeffrey Epstein charged with operating sex trafficking ring involving dozens of underage girls, pleads not guilty

Jeffrey Epstein pleads not guilty

Federal prosecutors in New York charged wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein on Monday with sex trafficking charges, alleging he abused dozens of underage girls as young as 14. Epstein, 66, was charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking with underage females. He pleaded not guilty, according to the Associated Press. 

The indictment comes 11 years after Epstein cut a deal with attorneys in Florida to avoid a similar charge.

"As set forth herein, over the course of many years, Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations," the indictment reads. 

The indictment alleges that Epstein recruited girls between 2002 and 2005 to "engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash," and that he would "maintain and increase his supply of victims" by paying them to "recruit additional girls to be similarly abused," in his New York and Florida homes. 

The indictment alleges that through this process, Epstein "created a vast network of underage victims" for him to engage with in sexual exploitation. 

"Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, knew that many of his New York victims were underage, including because certain victims told him their age. Further, once these minor victims were recruited, many were abused by Epstein on multiple subsequent occasions at the New York Residence," the indictment reads. 

Among the allegations included in the indictment, there are accusations that Epstein:

  • Recruited victims to provide "nude or partially nude" massages that would "typically include one or more sex acts."
  • Escalated the nature of contact during the massages to include "groping and direct and indirect contact with the victim's genitals."
  • Masturbated during the sexual massages and would "ask victims to touch him while he masturbated" while using sex toys.
  • Encouraged recruitment of underage girls through a system where he "asked and enticed" his victims to recruit additional girls by "offering to pay these victim-recruiters for every additional girl they brought to Epstein." 

The current case is being pursued by the Southern District of New York.

"In the world of trial lawyers, we refer to the Southern District of New York as the most powerful law firm in the world," CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said on Monday. "They do not go forward with a case unless they have investigated it top to bottom and they are convinced they will get a conviction." 

The well-connected billionaire has admitted to sex abuse in the past. In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to "soliciting and procuring" an underage person for "prostitution." Court documents reveal "the charges stemmed from sexual activity with privately hired masseuses."

Epstein's prior guilty plea was part of a deal with prosecutors, who included President Trump's future Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta. Epstein spent 13 months in a Florida county jail and had to register as a sex offender but faced immunity from federal prosecution. In February, a federal judge ruled that Acosta and other federal prosecutors broke the law by concealing a plea agreement from more than 30 underage girls who were allegedly sexually abused by Epstein. 

Some of Epstein's friends include former President Bill Clinton, Great Britain's Prince Andrew and President Trump. 

Mr. Trump was quoted by New York Magazine in 2002, saying of Epstein, "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."

At a press conference on Monday, U.S. Attorneys at the Southern District of New York argued Epstein should be detained until his trial. The government said he has three active U.S. passports, six residences—including some overseas, and one that is his own private island—16 cars, and two private jets.

Prosecutors noted Epstein faces up to 45 years in prison for counts one and two, meaning he could spend the rest of his life in jail. 

"Each of these factors—the seriousness of the allegations, the strength of the evidence, and the possibility of lengthy incarceration—creates an extraordinary incentive to flee," said Geoffrey S. Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. "And as further described below, the defendant has the means and money to do so."