The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A pilot bought Jeffrey Epstein’s jet before the sex-trafficking bust. He’s now suing, calling the plane ’tainted.’

In this July 2, 2020, photo, Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell during a news conference in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)
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In June 2019, Thomas Huff, a pilot and businessman from Georgia, bought a Gulfstream jet and an adjoining limited liability company, together worth at least $3.5 million. The seller: Jeffrey Epstein, who about a month later would be charged with orchestrating a vast sex-trafficking ring and abusing dozens of underage girls.

Now, Huff is suing the executors of Epstein’s estate, alleging the jet-setting financier duped him into buying assets that would eventually be “tainted” by the “stigma” of Epstein’s alleged child abuse.

The company Huff purchased, JEGE, offers customers the opportunity to rent or become a partial owner of the Gulfstream. Alleging that Epstein breached his fiduciary duty to Huff and defrauded him during the sale, Huff is demanding to be compensated for the money he has lost since Epstein’s reputation cast a dark cloud over the airplane business.

Epstein “knew or should have known that his criminal acts which resulted in the victimization and sexual exploitation against … children would, if and when discovered, have a dramatic impact on the assets and value of JEGE,” Huff’s lawsuit states.

Since Epstein’s arrest, the company Huff purchased from him dropped in value by at least $1.5 million, the lawsuit alleges.

Customers who use the plane “some of which are very well known to the public, are tracked, surveilled, and reported to the press” for patronizing the company, the lawsuit states.

“It’s truly affected my client being able to use it,” Jeff Banks, Huff’s lawyer, told the Daily Beast, which first reported on the lawsuit. “A lot of people track the plane, who flies on it, and of course, harass those people, and they don’t want to lease the airplane anymore. So it’s affected his business.”

Epstein presented himself as a larger-than-life figure who flaunted his wealth, fraternizing with powerful figures like former president Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew and flying around on his miniature fleet of private jets. In July 2019, federal prosecutors charged Epstein with sex trafficking, alleging that he paid underage girls to procure others for him to abuse.

A month after his arrest, Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell from an apparent suicide. Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion, is awaiting trial on charges that she helped Epstein recruit underage girls.

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Following Epstein’s arrest, Huff tried to rescind the jet purchase, but Epstein rejected the attempt, the lawsuit alleges. Had Huff known about Epstein’s alleged criminal behavior, “he would not have purchased JEGE,” the lawsuit states.

Epstein owned several jets, including a Boeing 727 dubbed the “Lolita Express” because Epstein allegedly used it to transport underage girls. As of last August, the New York Post reported, that plane is sitting at a Georgia airport.