- Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in July on suspicion of sex trafficking minors in his Manhattan and Florida homes from around 2002 to 2005.
- At the center of the investigation is Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse, which was transferred to him for $US0 in 2011.
- Business Insider spoke with New York-based real-estate lawyer Marc Lavaia, partner at Warshaw Burstein LLP, about the logistics behind transferring property for $US0.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on July 6 on suspicion of sex trafficking minors in his Manhattan and Florida homes from 2002 to 2005. The arrest comes over a decade after Epstein pleaded guilty to solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution and served 13 months in prison.
Epstein’s real-estate portfolio has played a major role in the ongoing sex-trafficking and sexual abuse allegations against him.
In total, Epstein’s real-estate holdings are estimated to be valued at north of $US100 million. At the center of the investigation is Epstein’s Upper East Side townhouse, which is one of the largest private homes in Manhattan. The FBI raided the seven-story mansion on 9 East 71st Street in July and found nude photos, one of which reportedly included an underaged girl.
Epstein moved into the townhouse in 1996, according to Vanity Fair, but there was no evidence proving he owned the home. The first proof of ownership, however, is dated 2011, at which point the home was transferred to a company owned by Epstein for $US0.
Business Insider spoke with real-estate lawyer Marc Lavaia, partner at the New York-based law firm Warshaw Burstein LLP, about the logistics behind transferring property for $US0.
Epstein has at least six properties around the world
Currently, the public is aware of details regarding five of those luxury residential properties: a multimillion-dollar mansion in Manhattan; a private island in the US Virgin Islands; a home in Palm Beach, Florida; a ranch in New Mexico; and an apartment in Paris, France.
While the case against him focuses heavily on his Manhattan mansion and his Palm Beach estate, he has also been accused of abusing victims in his New Mexico, US Virgin Islands, and Paris homes.
Public records show that the $US77 million Upper East Side townhouse was transferred to Epstein for $US0 in 2011
Epstein’s Manhattan mansion has a mysterious, complicated history.
The townhouse was bought in 1989 by founder and CEO of L Brands Les Wexner for $US13.2 million. Wexner then sold it in 1998 to the New York-based Nine East 71st Street Corporation (NES) for an undisclosed amount. Public records from 2011 show that Epstein held, to some degree, ownership of NES.Details of his relationship with the company are still unclear.
Public records show that, in 2011, the ownership of the property was transferred from NES to the Virgin Islands-based company Maple Inc., another company also controlled by Epstein. Documents indicate that the property was transferred to Maple for $US0.
According to Bloomberg, a court document estimates the home’s current value to be $US77 million. The New York City Department of Finance valued the home closer to $US56 million earlier this year.
How can a multimillion-dollar property be transferred for $US0?
Public documents of the 2011 transfer show that Epstein signed as the president of both NES and Maple Inc. Since he was an owner of both companies, he essentially acted as both the buyer and seller in the transaction, thus resulting in a $US0 transfer.
Lavaia told Business Insider that it’s not uncommon for high-end real-estate transfers of this nature to take place. Transferring property is very simple, he said, and oftentimes just requires signing over the deed.
A holder may decide to transfer the ownership of a multimillion-dollar property at no cost for many reasons, but, according to Lavaia, two major reasons are to limit the current company’s liability or to receive better tax treatment on a property.
What are the potential benefits of being both the buyer and seller of the same property?
In order to limit liability, owners often transfer assets between their companies, Lavaia said.
“If XYZ Company owns a property and is sued for whatever reason, that property could be subject to a judgment,” Lavaia told Business Insider in an email. However, “If XYZ Company transfers that property, it has limited its liability as that asset is in theory not subject to judgment.”
Transferring a residence between companies of the same owner may also allow for better tax treatment on the property, Lavaia explained. Consider an owner who is looking to sell a property in the near future: Transferring ownership to a company out of state or even overseas can lessen the amount due in taxes during the anticipated transaction.
The reason Epstein decided to transfer ownership in 2011 from NES to Maple Inc. remains unclear. The timing of it, however, does coincide with the year – 2011 – that Epstein was forced to register as a Level 3 sex offender in New York.
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