- Women who say billionaire Jeffrey Epstein molested them as girls are sharing their stories for the first time.
- A report published Wednesday in the Miami Herald gives new insight into the case of the financier with connections to President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Britain’s Prince Andrew.
- The victims all told similar stories of being hired to give Epstein a massage when they were teenagers, and his push to take things further.
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims are telling their stories for the first time.
On Wednesday, the Miami Herald published a lengthy report into the case of Epstein, who took a plea deal in 2008 after local and federal investigators uncovered evidence that he likely molested dozens of underage girls.
While Epstein could have faced up to life in prison, prosecutors lowered the sentence in exchange for him providing unspecified information to federal investigators. He ended up serving just 13 months in the private wing of the county jail.
Many of the details of the case have largely been kept out of the public eye thanks to the plea deal, but the new report is shedding light on the case involving the billionaire, who had connections to President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Britain’s Prince Andrew.
‘He ruined my life’
At the time of Epstein’s sentencing, federal investigators identified 36 victims, according to the Herald.
But the deal brought their investigation to a close. Once Epstein’s case made papers, more women came out, and the Herald says they have now identified 80 victims.
The paper located 60 of those victims, and eight of them agreed to be interviewed, either on or off the record. Four were willing to speak about their experience on video.
“I don’t think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,” one of the alleged victims, Michelle Licata, 30, said. “He ruined my life and a lot of girls’ lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn’t prosecuted so it never happens again.”
Investigators who worked on the case told the paper that the dozens of women they spoke to all told similar stories of their encounters with Epstein.
Many said other victims been recruited them, at places like the mall. They were then offered $US200 to $US300 to give a man a massage. Investigators told the Herald that Epstein pushed the girls to go as far sexually as he could.
Epstein didn’t respond to the Herald’s requests for comment.
Long before #MeToo became the catalyst for a women's movement about sexual assault — and a decade before the fall of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and U.S. Olympic gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar — there was Jeffrey Edward Epstein. #PerversionofJustice pic.twitter.com/z3rIvzQWE9
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) November 28, 2018
The girls he allegedly abused were largely from troubled backgrounds, either in the foster care system, from broken families, or below the poverty line.
“We were stupid, poor children,” one alleged victim told the Herald. She says she was a 14-year-old high school freshman when she first met the financier.
“We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row,” she said. “We had no family and no guidance, and we were told that we were going to just have to sit in a room topless and he was going to just look at us. It sounded so simple, and was going to be easy money for just sitting there.”
Like a sexual pyramid scheme
Courtney Wild, 31, says she was 14 and still wearing braces in when she met Epstein in 2002. She told the Herald that she recruited girls for him until she was 21.
She said Epstein preferred girls who were white, looked prepubescent, and were easy to manipulate.
“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years,” Wild told the paper. “He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them. … He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough.”
Like some of the other victims, Wild fell onto hard times. She was released from prison last month after serving three years on drug charges.
Wild is now part of a lawsuit that claims federal prosecutors broke the law when they cut a plea deal with Epstein without informing his victims.
Joseph Recarey, one of the detectives who was on the case, described the pattern of abuse as being like a sexual pyramid scheme.
“The common interview with a girl went like this: ‘I was brought there by so and so. I didn’t feel comfortable with what happened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn’t feel comfortable, I could bring someone else and still get paid,'” Recarey said.
Almost all of the girls told the Herald a similar story about their encounters with Epstein.
After another girl recruited them, they would allegedly enter Epstein’s Palm Beach home through a side door, where a female staff assistant would give them the option to eat in the kitchen.
They were then sent upstairs to the large master bedroom, where Epstein would be waiting in a towel, according to the Herald.
According to police reports the Herald reviewed, Epstein would tell the girl to strip, lie face down on the massage table, then at some point flip over and start to masturbate.
He would then take a shower and dismiss the girl, the Herald reported.
One girl reportedly told police that she was recruited when she was 16 and for more than a year, she went to his house hundreds of times and had sex with a “sex slave” while Epstein pleasured himself. While she was firm that she didn’t want to have sex with Epstein himself, she says one day he held her down on the massage table and penetrated her, according to the Herald. She says he later apologised and paid her $US1,000.
“You beat yourself up mentally and physically,”‘ one of the alleged victims, 30-year-old Jena-Lisa Jones, told the Herald.
Jones said Epstein molested her when she was 14. “You can’t ever stop your thoughts. A word can trigger something. For me, it is the word ‘pure’ because he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I remember what he did to me in that room.”
Some of the girls said they were coached to tell Epstein that they were 18. It appears this was protection in case Epstein ever got caught. But under Florida law, not knowing a person’s age cannot be used as a defence against having sex with a minor.
The victims who spoke to the Herald are furious that Epstein got off so easy.
“Really if you think about this too hard, it’s scary because this is our government that is supposed to protect us but has done everything to protect a pedophile,” Wild said.
“How come people who don’t have money get sent to jail – and can’t even make bail – and they have to do their time and sit there and think about what they did wrong?” Licata asked. “He had no repercussions and doesn’t even believe he did anything wrong.”