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Billionaire alleges that Epstein misappropriated ‘vast sums ... from me and my family’

In 2014, retail mogul Les Wexner and his wife Abigail tour the "Transfigurations" exhibit at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. (Jay Laprete/AP)

Les Wexner, the billionaire retail mogul who created Limited Brands, had remained largely silent in recent weeks, even as he was besieged by inquiries about his friendship with financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

But in a letter made public by his foundation, Epstein’s best-known client offered an explanation: He, too, had been duped.

Declaring himself “embarrassed,” Wexner alleged that in the fall of 2007, he discovered Epstein had “misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family.”

The letter, which was written to the charitable foundation in his name, does not say how much Epstein allegedly took from him, but the amount appears to have been in excess of $46 million.

Wexner indicated that some misappropriated money had been repaid, and tax documents indicate that the repayments were $46 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the letter.

Last month, federal prosecutors unsealed new sex trafficking charges against Epstein, alleging that the multimillionaire, who previously avoided serious legal consequences, had abused dozens of girls at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla.

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The charges brought new levels of scrutiny to Epstein, as well as questions about how the former high school math teacher had amassed a fortune estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.

By most accounts, the answer lies partly in Epstein’s relationship with Wexner, and the letter lays out Wexner’s account of how the two became entangled as friends and business associates.

They met in the mid-1980s, forging an increasingly close relationship that lasted roughly 20 years, according to the letter.

“Mr. Epstein represented that he had various well-known and respected individuals both as his financial clients and in his inner circle,” Wexner wrote. “Based on positive reports from several friends, and on my initial dealings with him, I believed I could trust him. Eventually, he took over managing my personal finances.”

Wexner also gave Epstein power-of-attorney.

He “had wide latitude to act on my behalf with respect to my personal finances while I focused on building my company and undertaking philanthropic efforts,” Wexner said.

The relationship faltered in the fall of 2007 when Epstein was accused of preying on underage girls. At that point, Wexner said, he discovered that Epstein had allegedly taken money, and he severed ties with Epstein, who has pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges.

The retail empire that Wexner founded, L Brands Inc., has hired a law firm to investigate ties between the company and Epstein.

“I am embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr. Epstein,” Wexner wrote. “I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path.”