A top official at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) resigned Saturday after acknowledging this past week that he went around the university's official designation of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein as a “disqualified” donor and continued to accept gifts from him for a prestigious research lab.
Joichi Ito, the director of the Media Lab at MIT, admitted that he accepted a $525,000 donation from Epstein after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to solicitation of prostitution involving an underage victim, according to a report by The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow.
"After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as Director of the Media Lab and as a Professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately,” Ito said in an email to the provost and president of the university that he shared with The New York Times.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif said he had requested an independent investigation to address the "deeply disturbing allegations about the engagement between individuals at the Media Lab and Jeffrey Epstein." Reif disclosed last month that the school took about $800,000 from Epstein over 20 years. That announcement followed the resignation of two prominent researchers from Media Lab over the revelations of Epstein's ties to the Cambridge University.
However, the New Yorker reported that Epstein, a Level 3 registered sex offender at the time, arranged at least $7.5 million in donations. That amount included a $2 million gift from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and a $5.5 million donation from investor Leon Black, with Epstein acting as a sort of proxy for the funds, according to emails dated October 2014 which were reviewed by The New Yorker.
A spokesperson for Gates told the magazine that these allegations were "completely false," and Black declined to comment.
"[T]he acceptance of the Epstein gifts involved a mistake of judgment," Reif said in a statement. "We are actively assessing how best to improve our policies, processes and procedures to fully reflect MIT’s values and prevent such mistakes in the future. Our internal review process continues, and what we learn from it will inform the path ahead."
Internal emails and correspondence between MIT administrative officials also revealed how university officials went to great lengths to conceal Epstein's identity on subsequent gifts, while simultaneously accepting high dollar donations from other wealthy donors that Epstein had convinced to contribute to the prestigious university program.
Still, MIT staff members in Ito's office refrained from using Epstein's name when scheduling meetings with him, instead referring to him only by his initials. Signe Swenson, a former development associate and alumni coordinator at the lab who resigned in 2015 because of Epstein's continued involvement, told the magazine that donations from the financier had to be kept "anonymous" and that some staff in Ito's office called Epstein "Voldemort" or “he who must not be named,” a reference to the villain of the "Harry Potter" book series.
Epstein was found dead in his cell on Aug. 10 at a New York City prison and his death was ruled a suicide. The 66-year-old was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges. Prosecutors allege Epstein paid girls as young as 14 years old hundreds of dollars in cash for massages before molesting them at his homes in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., from 2002 through 2005.
Fox News' Lucia I. Suarez Sang and The Associated Press contributed to this report.