Jeffrey Epstein is accused of trafficking and sexually abusing young women and girls, some who appeared as young as 11, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The late sex offender’s planes, helicopters, boat and automobiles transported victims to his private islands in the Caribbean where he raped and held them captive, according to the suit filed in superior court in St. Thomas. The government is seeking the forfeiture under criminal enterprise laws of assets in the islands it estimates at around $578 million, including entities that hold properties in New York, Palm Beach and Paris.
In a press conference on Wednesday, U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George said the lawsuit was separate from the several brought against Epstein’s estate by individual victims. “Today the Virgin Islands is standing up on its own for justice,” she said.
A lawyer for Epstein’s estate, which has been seeking to set up a compensation fund to resolve victims’ claims, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The extent of the abuse that took place on the islands, Great St. James and Little St. James, has been the source of much conjecture since Epstein’s arrest in July on charges that he sexually abused and exploited dozens of girls. Epstein died by suicide in jail in August.
As well as his estate, the lawsuit also targets — but doesn’t name — associates of Epstein who helped him carry out his crimes. The suit describes a “trafficking pyramid scheme,” where associates would target underage girls on the pretext of providing massages before they were then pressured to engage in sexual acts. Those victims were then forced to recruit others.
Epstein carried out “an expansive scheme of human trafficking and sexual abuse of young women” and concealed it with an elaborate scheme of entities, said George, who took office in April.
Epstein’s resources — his estate is valued at almost $600 million — enabled him to skirt scrutiny, according to the suit.
“Monitoring a sex offender with his own private islands and the resources to fly victims in and out on private planes and helicopters presented unique challenges.”
That included refusing to let investigators step foot on Little St. James when they came to check up on the sex offender. Instead he met them at his St. Thomas office. To preserve that privacy and seclusion, Epstein went so far as to spend more than $20 million on Great St. James, the nearest island to Little St. James in a bid “to ensure the island didn’t become a base from which others could view their activities or visitors.”
The complaint details a 15-year-old girl who attempted to escape by swimming from Little St. James. Epstein and others organized a search party that found her and confiscated her passport. A computerized database was maintained with a list of underage girls.
Evidence cited in the complaint, including flight logs, allege that the crimes started at least in 2001 and carried on until 2019, a decade after he served time in a Palm Beach jail on charges of procuring a minor for prostitution, in a case involving a secretive plea deal. The filing is frank about the difficulty of unpicking the web of assets through which Epstein conducted his activities.
“Epstein maintained a deliberately complex web of Virgin Islands corporations, limited liability companies, foundations, and other entities, not all of which are yet known to the Government of the Virgin Islands,” the lawsuit says.