By Samuel Chamberlain
Published July 13, 2019
Financier Jeffrey Epstein paid $350,000 to two potential witnesses against him in his sex trafficking case, New York federal prosecutors alleged Friday in a bid to keep the 66-year-old behind bars until trial.
According to prosecutors, Epstein wired the money late last year, days after the Miami Herald published the first in a series of articles scrutinizing a plea agreement Epstein reached with federal prosecutors in 2008 that secretly wound down a sex abuse investigation involving at least 40 female minors that could have landed him behind bars for life. Alexander Acosta, who approved the plea deal as the then-U.S. Attorney for South Florida, resigned as labor secretary earlier Friday.
The government's filing, citing financial records, said that Epstein sent $100,000 on Nov. 30, 2018, to "an individual named as a possible co-conspirator in the [plea agreement]." Three days later, the filing says, Epstein wired $250,000 to "another individual named as a possible co-conspirator ... and also identified as one of the defendant's employees."
"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 prosecutors said.
Epstein was arrested Saturday at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey as he arrived on a flight from Paris. He has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he recruited and abused dozens of underage girls at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., in the early 2000s. His attorneys have said the charges will not stick because Epstein is protected by the terms of the 2008 plea agreement. Under the terms of that deal, Epstein served 13 months in jail, was required to reach financial settlements with dozens of his alleged victims and register as a sex offender.
In their argument for bail Thursday, Epstein's lawyers argued in favor of house arrest with electronic monitoring at his $77 million Manhattan mansion, where prosecutors say some of the sexual activity took place. The defense argued that their client had long lived with the fear that federal prosecutors might pursue sexual abuse charges against him again, but had never sought to flee the country.
Prosecutors argued that the house arrest proposal "does nothing to mitigate his [Epstein's] flight risk."
"Each of the relevant factors to be considered as to flight risk—the nature and circumstances of the offense, the strength of the evidence, and the history and characteristics of the defendant—counsel strongly in favor of detention," the filing said.
Prosecutors also said that several of Epstein's alleged victims supported his detention until trial, claiming that they feared "harassment and abuse by the defendant."
Earlier Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Beman ruled that Epstein's lawyers could file documents related to his finances under seal, preventing them from being made public. Prosecutors had complained to Berman Thursday that the defense hadn't filed the paperwork, making it impossible to "meaningfully respond" to their argument for bail.
In Friday's filing, prosecutors said Epstein's net worth was "more than $500 million" and claimed that "his token effort to account for his finances makes painfully clear the need for detention."
Fox News' Marta Dhanis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.