Written by Ali Watkins and Vivian Wang
Federal prosecutors appear to have resurrected a federal sex crimes case against the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein by focusing on accusations that he sexually assaulted girls at his mansion in Manhattan, more than a decade after a widely criticized plea deal shielded him from similar charges in Florida.
Federal prosecutors are expected to unseal the charges Monday accusing Epstein, 66, of running a sex-trafficking operation that lured dozens of underage girls — some as young as 14 — to his Upper East Side home, according to three law enforcement officials.
He was arrested Saturday at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, after arriving on a private flight from France, two law enforcement sources said. The sex trafficking charges carry a combined maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison.
The new charges are a stunning revival of a yearslong case against Epstein, who faced similar accusations involving girls who told police they were brought to his mansion in South Florida and assaulted. That case unraveled in 2008 after Epstein was offered a secret plea deal by federal prosecutors.
In the era of #MeToo, Epstein’s case had remained stubbornly unresolved. For years, women have accused Epstein, in lawsuits and in complaints to police, of preying on them when they were underage. Still, for more than a decade he was shielded from federal charges by his secret plea deal.
That will end Monday, two law enforcement officials said.
Epstein is charged with using his vast network of contacts and associates to bring a constant stream of underage girls to his Manhattan town house, one law enforcement source said. He is accused of shuttling the girls between the town house and his home in Palm Beach, Florida, paying them in cash and urging them to recruit other underage girls to visit his home.
The girls were initially recruited to give him massages. But he frequently escalated the encounters into sex acts, a law enforcement source said, including groping and touching the girls’ genitals. This pattern continued from at least 2002 to 2005, the source said.