Epstein gave $850G to MIT; three top officials knew he was convicted sex offender, report finds

Three top administrators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology knew that Jeffrey Epstein was a convicted sex offender in 2013 but still approved the acceptance of his donations while demanding they be kept out of the public spotlight in an effort to protect MIT's reputation, according to a report commissioned by the school that was released Friday.

The 61-page report by the Goodwin Procter law firm said Epstein made 10 donations totaling $850,000 to MIT between 2002 and 2017. He also visited the campus nine times between 2013 and 2017, unbeknownst to MIT's senior leadership. Many of the donations came through Epstein's foundations and were recorded as anonymous gifts.

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The report also concluded that MIT President L. Rafael Reif was not aware the school had accepted donations Epstein and had no role in approving their receipt.

Epstein, 66, was found hanging Aug. 10 in his Manhattan jail cell, where he was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.

“Since MIT had no policy or processes for handling controversial donors in place at the time, the decision to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations cannot be judged to be a policy violation,” the report said. “But it is clear that the decision was the result of collective and significant errors in judgment that resulted in serious damage to the MIT community.”

Three MIT vice presidents -- R. Gregory Morgan, Jeffrey Newton and Israel Ruiz -- learned of Epstein's donations to the MIT Media Lab in 2013, five years after his 2008 conviction for sex crimes against a minor in Florida, the report said. They debated whether to return the money but ultimately approved it, under the condition that it be kept anonymous.

Newton and Morgan have since retired and Ruiz "has expressed deep regret, which we believe is sincere, for what he believes was a collective and continued error of judgment," the report found.

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"I regret that MIT did not have sufficient policies and processes in place to guide these senior administrators in facing these conflicting pressures," Reif said in a statement. "I also wish they had taken to heart the concerns others brought to them and simply put a stop to the Epstein funding, rather than improvising guidelines to allow the gifts under certain constraints."

Nearly all of Epstein's donations went to the MIT Media Lab and to Seth Lloyd, a mechanical engineering professor. Lloyd was placed on paid administrative leave Friday for "purposefully" failing to inform the school of two 2012 donations from Epstein totaling approximately $100,000.

Lloyd was also found to have accepted a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006. He deposited the money in his personal bank account and did not inform MIT, the report said.

“Professor Lloyd knew that donations from Epstein would be controversial and that MIT might reject them,” the report said. “We conclude that, in concert with Epstein, he purposefully decided not to alert the Institute to Epstein’s criminal record, choosing instead to allow mid-level administrators to process the donations without any formal discussion or diligence concerning Epstein.”

Investigators found that Epstein reached out to Lloyd as he tried to rehabilitate his reputation following his 2008 conviction. The report says Epstein was disappointed that other universities were rejecting his money and sent an email to Lloyd as a test. In an email, he told Lloyd, “im [sic] going to give you two 50k tranches to see if the line jingles.”

In August, Reif announced MIT would donate an amount equal to its donations from Epstein to a charity that supports victims of sexual violence. The following month, a letter signed by 10 MIT staffers and professors demanded to know the extent of the school's financial ties with the disgraced financier.

Former Media Lab director Joi Ito has admitted that Epstein gave him $525,000 for the Media Lab and another $1.2 million for his own investment funds. He resigned in September after media reports detailed how he tried to conceal the extent of the relationship with Epstein. Investigators found that the leaders were unaware of Epstein's regular visits to campus, which often came at the invitation of Ito or Lloyd.

Epstein visited campus as recently as April 2017, the report said, despite objections from some staff members at the Media Lab. Some secretly called him “Voldemort," investigators discovered, and some felt uncomfortable when he arrived with female assistants in their 20s.

In a campus letter, Reif said MIT will create a process to guide decisions on controversial donors and will establish guidelines “to keep the MIT community safe from visitors who pose a direct threat.”

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“We must fix what needs fixing and improve what needs improving," Reif said. "And we must make room for many more voices and perspectives."

Epstein also gave money to Harvard University, which is conducting its own review.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.