The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Epstein paid suspected co-conspirators, which prosecutors suggest may have been to ‘influence’ them

Jeffrey Epstein was charged July 8 with sex trafficking crimes and pleaded not guilty. The Post's Kimberly Kindy breaks down the charges. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Osman Malik/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Soon after The Miami Herald began reporting on his favorable treatment by law enforcement in an early 2000s sex crimes investigation, jet-setting financier Jeffrey Epstein paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to people investigators had identified as possible co-conspirators — payments which federal prosecutors alleged Friday might have been meant to influence them.

The allegation came in a court filing by federal prosecutors in New York, who recently arrested and charged Epstein with sexually abusing dozens of young girls from 2002 to 2005. The arrest set off a chain of events that led to the resignation Friday of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami during the earlier investigation of Epstein.

Acosta said prosecutors wanted to guarantee Jeffrey Epstein would go to jail. The reality is more complicated.

In seeking to keep the multimillionaire jailed pending trial, New York prosecutors argued Epstein had a history of trying to obstruct inquiries into his misdeeds, including those from journalists.

Prosecutors wrote they had obtained financial records showing in November 2018, two days after the Herald reported on a favorable plea arrangement Epstein received years prior, Epstein wired $100,000 to someone identified as a possible co-conspirator in the case. Three days after that, he wired $250,000 to another person identified as a possible co-conspirator, prosecutors wrote.

“Neither of these payments appears to be recurring or repeating during the approximately five years of bank records presently available to the Government,” prosecutors wrote. “This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations.”

The filing does not identify who received these payments. Epstein’s prior agreement identifies as possible co-conspirators Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff and Nadia Marcinkova, who each worked for or were otherwise associated with Epstein. Attempts to reach them Friday night were unsuccessful.

Epstein’s defense attorneys did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The suspected co-conspirators are not named, and prosecutors did not say in precisely what manner Epstein was trying to influence them .

Officials have credited the media with helping reignite the investigation into Epstein, who resolved the early 2000s sex crimes investigation by pleading guilty to two state charges and spending about 13 months in jail, with work-release privileges.

That arrangement, which had been widely criticized as too lenient, received new scrutiny this week after federal prosecutors in New York unsealed the sex trafficking charges against Epstein. Acosta, who approved the earlier deal, announced Friday he was stepping down as labor secretary amid the controversy.

Prosecutors’ filing Friday was a response to defense attorneys’ request that Epstein be let out on bail before his trial. The defense wrote in their court filing Epstein was willing to put up his Manhattan mansion and private jet as collateral, agree to home confinement and GPS monitoring, and pay for 24/7 security. They said Epstein intends to vigorously challenge the allegations.

Prosecutors maintain Epstein remained a significant flight risk and a danger to the community.

They said they had recently obtained records from a financial institution showing he was worth “more than $500 million” and earns at least $10 million a year. Because of that, they wrote, “there would be little to stop the defendant from fleeing, transferring his unknown assets abroad, and then continuing to do whatever it is he does to earn his vast wealth from a computer terminal beyond the reach of extradition.”

Prosecutors wrote that, since the indictment was unsealed Monday, “several additional women, in multiple jurisdictions, have identified themselves to the Government as having been victimized by the defendant when they were minors,” and dozens had called to provide information.

Multiple victims or their lawyers, prosecutors wrote, had asked them to seek that Epstein stay locked up, believing that if allowed out, he might try to harass or abuse them. They noted Epstein “has history of obstruction and manipulation of witnesses, including, as detailed herein, as recently as within the past year, when media reports about his conduct reemerged.”

Within “recent months,” they wrote, Epstein “paid significant amounts of money to influence individuals who were close to him during the time period charged in this case and who might be witnesses against him at a trial.” Then they noted the payments made just after the Herald’s reporting.

Past police reports, prosecutors wrote, also seem to tie Epstein to obstructive efforts. One police report said a parent of one of Epstein’s victims was driven off the road by a private investigator, and another suggests an associate of Epstein’s was offering by “buy victims’ silence” during the previous investigation, prosecutors wrote.

“Indeed, the victim reported having been told: ‘Those who help him will be compensated and those who hurt him will be dealt with,’ ” prosecutors wrote.