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U.S. Virgin Islands alleges JP Morgan knowingly "turned a blind eye" to Jeffrey Epstein's sex crimes in federal lawsuit

Jeffrey Epstein accusers sue big banks for enabling and profiting from sex trafficking
Jeffrey Epstein accusers sue big banks for enabling and profiting from sex trafficking 00:32

The attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands filed a lawsuit this week against JP Morgan Chase, alleging that the banking giant benefited from Jeffrey Epstein's illegal sex trafficking enterprise and helped conceal the ongoing exploitation of women and girls at his property on Little St. James.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, accuses JP Morgan of providing banking services to Epstein even after he became a registered sex offender in the U.S. Virgin Islands following his 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution in Palm Beach, Florida. It also accuses the financial institution of failing to comply with federal regulations, including records and reporting requirements that may have flagged Epstein's crimes to U.S. officials before they eventually came to light, in a deliberate attempt to hide Epstein's suspicious activities.

"Financial institutions can connect — or choke — human trafficking networks, and enforcement actions filed and injunctive relief obtained by attorneys general are essential to ensure that enterprises like Epstein's cannot flourish in the future," the attorney general wrote in Tuesday's complaint.

Epstein, a former financier and the long-time partner of British ex-socialite and convicted criminal Ghislaine Maxwell, died by apparent suicide in August 2019 in his jail cell at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was being held without bail while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Epstein allegedly recruited, groomed and sexually abused dozens of women and underaged girls over the course of decades and at multiple properties that he owned across the globe, according to a grand jury's indictment. Maxwell was convicted last year of several sex trafficking charges connected to Epstein and his crimes, including sex trafficking a minor and transporting a minor for purposes related to criminal sexual activity. She was sentenced this past summer to 20 years in federal prison.

Denise N. George, the attorney general for the U.S. Virgin Islands, initially brought a lawsuit against Epstein's estate on Little St. James, one of two private islands that he owned within the territory, and its two co-executors. George announced in early December that the co-executors had agreed to pay $105 million in cash along with half of the proceeds from the sale of Little St. James to the U.S. Virgin Islands for allegedly violating the islands' laws prohibiting corruption, sex trafficking and sexual servitude.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend de Grisogono Sponsors The 2005 Wall Street Concert Series Benefitting Wall Street Rising on March 15, 2005, in New York City. Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

In the new lawsuit, George alleges that JP Morgan willingly "turned a blind eye to evidence of human trafficking for more than a decade because of Epstein's own financial footprint," and because he consistently brought profitable business deals and clientele to the bank.

A government investigation into sex trafficking operations at Epstein's estate on the private island — which he owned from 1998 until his death, and where victims have said in various testimonies that many of his crimes occurred — uncovered evidence that JP Morgan "knowingly, negligently, and unlawfully provided and pulled the levers through which recruiters and victims were paid and was indispensable to the operation and concealment of the Epstein trafficking enterprise," the lawsuit alleges.

"JP Morgan facilitated and concealed wire and cash transactions that raised suspicion of — and were in fact part of — a criminal enterprise whose currency was the sexual servitude of dozens of women and girls in and beyond the Virgin Islands," the complaint continues. "Human trafficking was the principal business of the accounts Epstein maintained at JP Morgan."

It goes on to allege that the bank "facilitated, sustained, and concealed the human trafficking network operated by Jeffrey Epstein from his home and base in the Virgin Islands, and financially benefitted from this participation, directly or indirectly, by failing to comply with federal banking regulations."

The latest complaint arrived about one month after two of Epstein's accusers sued both JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank for allegedly making millions of dollars in profits off of their relationships with him and his criminal enterprise.

JP Morgan has not yet publicly acknowledged the Virgin Islands' federal lawsuit. CBS News contacted the bank for comment but did not receive an immediate reply.

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