FBI agents and D.C. police raided an office and warehouse on Ninth Street NW late Friday night and confiscated a truckload of business records, books and documents pertaining to operations of a man that law enforcement officials allege is a major East Coast distributor of pornographic material.
The massive seizure of records from the two locations, Automatic Enterprises Inc., at 415 Ninth St. NW; and A.R. & R., a basement warehouse at 514 Ninth St. NW, was carried out overnight by more than 20 law enforcement officers and was not completed until almost 10 a.m. yesterday.
Both locations are operated by Donald David Epstein, 52, alleged to be a major distributor of pornographic materials. No arrests were made.
The search was part of an ongoing investigation targeting "the financial underpinnings of the smut industry in the D.C. area," said Thomas J. Baker, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Washington Field office. A federal grand jury is expected to begin hearing evidence in the Epstein case this week.
Source said federal agents want to trace the flow of money in Epstein's business, which allegedly involves skimming profits off adult bookstore and peep show business and concealing them in a parent company. A 25-page affidavit in support of a search warrant in the case was signed late Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Richey. It alleges that Epstein kept two sets of financial records -- one containing false data that was given to the Internal Revenue Service to avoid full payment of taxes -- and that he had a "slush fund" from the pofits earned from peep shows at his various businesses.
Epstein, who could not be reach for comment yesterday, was present during part of the search accompanied by a man identified to the FBI as his lawyer.
According to the affidavit, Patricia Peyton Green, a longtime employe and associate of Epstein's alleged that payments were made from the slush fund to public and private officials "in return for protection and other favors."
Green, who worked first as a file clerk and later as office manager for Epstein, quit her job in 1980 after six years because she was concerned about the alleged criminal nature of Epstein's business ventures, the affidavit said. She has returned to the business premises on a weekly basis since then to visit friends, the affidavit said.
The affidavit relies heavily on allegations by Green, who was described in the document as Epstein's "highest managerial officer" and the person in charge of keeping the company's books. Federal sources said Green first made the allegations Thursday to FBI officials who had interviewed her previously in connection with the investigation. The affidavit was signed by FBI Special Agent Courtney West, of the Washington field office's local public corruption squad.
Epstein operates Automatic Enterprises Inc., a parent company for at one time as many as 14 other businesses, including adult bookstores in Washington, Florida and Ohio, the affidavit said.