The Fall of Icarus
Investigative journalist Conchita Sarnoff is the only journalist who interviewed the secretive, and now dead, millionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein while under house arrest. Sarnoff uncovers the predator’s global sex trafficking network and the powerful men and women he indulged and protected.
New York investor, Jeffrey E. Epstein, was a man like few others. A shrewd, ambitious and somewhat child-like character, Epstein was a self-professed billionaire with a good head for music and numbers. Shackled by his predilection for sexually charged massages with underage girls, he surrounded himself with powerful friends, beautiful girls and influential politicians most of his adult life. Thanks to his generous political donations and pricey perks he had plenty to spare. Over the years, two very intimate friendships: British socialite, Ghislaine Maxwell and billionaire, Leslie Wexner became his passage to the rich and powerful.
In the early nineties, through a mutual acquaintance I met Epstein at my home in Connecticut. That same day, while traveling on his jet from Los Angeles to New York he asked to see photos of friends. The acquaintance invited him to my home. They visited unannounced. After that first meeting, I ran into him in New York on various occasions. In 1993, I moved to Europe with my children.
Between 1993-2004, I saw Epstein at different events and dinners. We developed an acquaintanceship. This was after he met Ghislaine Maxwell, a British and French socialite, former partner and apparent mastermind behind the sex trafficking ring, according to court documents filed by a victim Virginia Louse Roberts, in New York following her father’s death. We saw each other more often. I suppose we were destined to meet. But not for the reasons you might expect.
Epstein (M.) with Donald Trump, 1997 . . .
. . . and with Ghislaine Maxwell, 2005.
Epstein was charming and knew how to spot his prey. Several of his victims told me. Court documents confirmed this. Haley Robson, one of his principal procurers in 2005, who was interrogated by the Palm Beach Police Department before Epstein’s first arrest said he had a strict-criteria to identify victims: the girls must be very young- under the age of 18, pretty, fair skinned, from under-privileged families and if they decided to talk unconvincing to a police officer.
Jane Doe #1, the first victim who opened the case, was petrified of Epstein. In fact, the young girl at first refused to file a complaint. Her parents insisted. Jane Doe #1 and her mother revealed how they were harassed, offered a bribe to stay silent and followed. The girl, only 14 at the time, was told by Haley Robson to tell Epstein she was 18 when they met. Robson also knew she was attending a school for children with special needs and came from a broken home. When I asked Jane about their first encounter, the girl said she did not look older than 14. “I was a little shrimp. I did not have boobies and did not look 18.”
Childless and never married, Epstein died a notorious death on Saturday, August 10, 2019. Only 35 days after his arrest, he was found insentient while in custody. He was in a U.S. federal prison awaiting trial. Since his death many in the media have speculated over the cause of death, who and why they wanted him dead. Given his business and political associations there are several people who didn’t want him to make it to trial.
In several court documents, a handful of influential men have been identified by victims who testified against Epstein. HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Seventh in Line to The Throne; former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, former President Bill Clinton, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Harvard University president Larry Summers, Harvard University Law professor, Alan Dershowitz and others.
What was it exactly that Epstein gave to these powerful men to attract their time and attention? According to court documents, he provided them with private jet rides around the globe, invitations to social events, dinners and scientific gatherings, introductions to other high net worth individuals, financial advice and at times start-up capital. After President Clinton left the White House, Epstein invested $4 million to start the Clinton foundation, Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). One of Epstein’s former lawyers, Gerald Lefcourt, wrote in a letter, recently made public, that Epstein was an early funder of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Beginning in 2004, he also invested $3 million to fund several businesses for former Prime Minister Ehud Barak including the high-tech company, Carbyne. The former Prime Minister was also, as reports indicate, a frequent tenant at his building on East 66th street. Like President Clinton, Prime Minister Barak was a frequent guest on his jet and at Epstein’s different homes on the private island and Manhattan.
The relationship between HRH Prince Andrew and Epstein was personal and professional. Apparently, Epstein was a one-time financial consultant to the Duke of York. In 2011, Sarah Ferguson, the Duke’s former wife apologized publicly for “a gigantic error in judgement” in accepting a fifteen thousand-pounds (L15,000) loan. According to media reports the Duchess needed to cover her expenses. Knowing how radioactive Epstein was, the question is why would Prince Andrew allow Epstein to loan money to the mother of his daughters and not cover the duchess’s financial obligations personally given the duke’s close relationship with his former spouse?
Epstein (r.) with Prinz Andrew, 2011 . . .
. . . and with Ex-President Bill Clinton (r.), 2002.
Recently, before his 2019 arrest, I was told by a former friend of Epstein’s that for a brief period and like several others, was a consultant to the Sovereign Grant as a result of his relationship with Prince Andrew. The Sovereign Grant holds among other financial vehicles the Duchy of Lancaster investments. Some investments are in offshore funds.
The Duchy of Lancaster, provides The Crown with an income. According to a number of documents, in 2004 and 2005, funds worth ten million pounds’ sterling (L10) were held in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Chris Adcock the chief financial officer of the Queen’s estate has been head of investments since 2003. Their investment strategy is based on the recommendation and advice of investment consultants according to the CFO.
Already strained by the amount of negative publicity, in January 2015, the relationship between HRH Prince Andrew and Epstein seems to have ended. Buckingham Palace called a press conference at the World Economic Conference at Davos. Prince Andrew addressed the Conference to explain the child sex abuse allegations against him, and filed by Virginia Louise Roberts years earlier, were false. During the speech, in front of the world’s most powerful leaders, the Duke categorically denied he had sexual relations with Ms. Roberts. Recently, the Duke’s private secretary again made a public statement clarifying the relationship between prince Andrew and Epstein.
In the case of the current U.S. President, in April 2016, during a heated U.S. presidential election, a woman identified as Katie Johnson filed a complaint against Jeffrey Epstein and the presidential candidate Donald Trump. The damages: $100 million dollars.
Ms. Johnson claimed she was 13 years old when she met Epstein at a New York party. Johnson also claims that at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse she was beaten and solicited for sex by both men. As a victim’s advocate, I almost always take the side of the survivor. In this particular case however, the allegations filed against president Trump and some charges filed against Epstein, appear inconsistent with their history and pattern of behavior. The case was dismissed for failure to properly state a claim in Lancaster, California.
September of the same year, Johnson refiled the same complaint in New York. The woman’s attorney, Thomas Francis Meagher, a patent attorney in Princeton, New Jersey represented Johnson after several attorneys turned down the case including Brad Edwards. On November 4, 2016, the case was dismissed voluntarily in the Southern District Court of New York.
Epstein’s professional relationships did not stop with influential leaders. In fact, he created close relationships with high level officials in banks such as JP Morgan and until earlier this year with Deutsche Bank. In the case of JP Morgan Chase, as late as 2008, after Epstein was arrested, compliance officials conducted a review of clients they should sever ties with. Epstein was flagged as a high-risk client.
A top executive at the bank overruled the compliance team and the bank continued to work with him for a number of years. The reason: Epstein brought value to the bank for his relationships. A more important criteria than his net worth. The bank’s interest was clearly securing new clients.
Apparently, when Highbridge, which belonged to his friend Glenn Dubin was sold to JP Morgan Chase, Epstein received a $15 million-dollar fee from Highbridge for making the introduction. An unusual payout from a bank to an individual according to a former JP Morgan official. Morgan Chase ended their relationship with Epstein in 2013.
Other friends who conducted business with Epstein include: Leon Black, Apollo Global Management founder and James E. Staley, one of Wall Street’s leading personalities and current Chief Executive of Barclay’s, a leading British bank. The men came into Epstein’s life in the 1990s. The relationship between MR. Staley and Epstein is unclear except that Epstein introduced MR. Staley to a number of wealthy clients while Staley was at JP Morgan Chase. MR. Staley is also on record as a frequent visitor during Epstein’s first imprisonment, in 2008, in Palm Beach, Florida.
According to Mr. Black, considered the founder of one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, Epstein provided personal tax services for his family, for many years. A business associate who met Epstein in the mid-nineties was Glenn Dubin. Mr. Dubin, head of Dubin & Co. a private investment company was the founder of Highbridge Capital Management. Mr. Dubin is also a co-founder of New York’s Robin Hood Foundation. In 1994, MR. Dubin married Epstein’s former girlfriend turned best friend, medical doctor and the 1980 Miss Sweden, Dr. Eva Andersson.
Dr. Andersson studied medicine at the renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Curiously, the institute is a medical-research hospital that recently ran clinical trials for a Swiss pharmaceutical to test a testosterone blocker that could apparently be prescribed to treat pedophilia. In the United States the practice of prescribing a testosterone blocker is banned in prison and with patients. Perhaps it should be carefully re-evaluated given the negative long-term repercussions of pedophilia.
In 2003, Harvey Weinstein and Epstein were investors together in an unsuccessful bid for New York Magazine. In addition to this business deal, a well-known Hollywood producer and friend of Epstein’s, said Epstein silently funded Mr. Weinstein and several other Hollywood producers in various film projects. He would not identify the projects but explained that was the reason Hollywood refused to touch the Epstein story in 2010 when I first exposed the case wide open in the Daily Beast. Since his arrest, in 2005, and subsequent indictment, in 2007, mainstream media had been discouraged to disclose the scope and range of the Epstein criminal case including identifying high profile individuals implicated in the story.
Inexplicably, after two alleged suicide attempts, Epstein was pronounced dead at approximately six thirty in the morning at the Manhattan Correctional Center, a New York federal detention facility known for a high level of security. MCC was the same prison where only days earlier, “El Chapo Guzman,” Mexico’s most wanted man and notorious Sinaloa Cartel leader was incarcerated in the same unit only 3 cells down from Epstein.
A photograph taken in the early morning of his death by a New York photographer shows Epstein on a stretcher being wheeled out of prison surrounded by four FDNY officials. Apparently, at the time of the photograph, he was alive. Epstein was visible, had a resuscitation mask strapped across his nose, and had not been placed inside a body bag as is customary when an inmate dies in prison.
Only a month earlier, Saturday July 6, 2019, within minutes of his return from Paris, France, Epstein had been arrested a second time. While still on the tarmac on board his private jet, at Teterboro, New Jersey’s private airport, Epstein was waiting to clear customs when several New Jersey FBI officials and Customs and Border Patrol agents surrounded his jet and arrested him.
The agents took him to the Manhattan federal facility where he was accused of two previous 2005 charges: count one: Conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking and count two: Child sex trafficking.
The arraignment Monday July 8, 2019 denied Epstein bail. Although the charges filed against him in New York were long standing 2005 federal charges, they were allegedly perpetrated in New York, a new jurisdiction. The Southern District of Florida was the first jurisdiction to file charges against him in 2005.
After a two-year federal investigation agreed to hand him a Non-Prosecution Agreement, Epstein served time in Palm Beach, Florida between 2008-2010. He served only thirteen months in the Palm Beach county jail followed by 18 months of house arrest in his Palm Beach estate. Because of the different jurisdictions, the Southern District of New York was able to bring federal charges jurisdiction 14 years later.
Born in Coney Island, New York, January 20, 1953, the predator was raised in Brooklyn, New York to a middle-class family. He grew up in the small ocean-side community of Sea Gate as the eldest of two siblings. Epstein attended several public elementary schools: PS 188, Mark Twain Jr. High and Lafayette High School where he graduated at the age of 16, two years before the customary age in the United States. From an early age, Epstein showed promise as a classical pianist and a good understanding in numbers.
His younger brother, Mark and Epstein were close. Their father, the late Seymour G. Epstein, was a groundskeeper for the New York City Parks & Recreation Department. Their mother, Pauline, also deceased, was a homemaker. Epstein was not born into privilege or comfort. As a young adult, he attended two colleges in Manhattan, Cooper Union and the Courant Institute. He never graduated with a degree from either college.
With the exception of his friendship with Leslie Wexner and his initial investment of one billion dollars in the early 1980s and the transfer of several real estate assets, it remains unclear how Epstein amassed his fortune. Mr. Wexner’s assets were transferred and sold at a nominal price to Epstein. The gifts included: a 727 jet, the Manhattan townhouse, a Paris flat on Avenue Foch, the United States Virgin Islands private island and the New Mexico Zorro ranch.
After Epstein made money in the mid-eighties, his brother Mark, although not an official business partner, managed a number of his brother’s real estate holdings including the infamous building at 301 East 66th Street where several victims made known they were abused by politicians and businessmen, friends of Epstein’s. Mark’s real estate holdings, Ossa Properties, in New York shared at least this one common property.
In a recent interview for Crain’s business journal, his brother Mark denied any connection between his company Ossa Properties and his brother’s J. Epstein & Co. During that interview, Mark said the information about ownership of the East 66th Street building was a “mistake." In a later article, The Wall Street Journal, revealed “the two were indeed affiliated.”
In spite of Epstein’s questionable business practices, erratic professional history, and professional relationships, the New York fund manager surrounded himself with a small network of powerful associates and politicians that seem to have protected, enabled and sustained the financial structure that allowed Epstein to continue his investments and live like a King for decades outside the prison walls.
Epstein’s wrongdoing dates back to the late 1970s, perhaps even earlier. Longer in fact than my decade long investigation (2009-2019) and acquaintanceship with Epstein.
Epstein’s professional career began shortly after he was dismissed from Dalton Academy in 1976, an elite private Upper East Side prep-school in Manhattan. During his short tenure (1974-1976) as a math instructor and piano teacher at Dalton, he met a young student, Ted Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg’s father, “Ace” Greenberg, was a heavyweight in the investment world and later chairman of Bear Stearns in New York.
“Ace” took an instant liking to Epstein while he was tutoring his son in mathematics at the family home. Within weeks he hired Epstein, in 1976, as a jr. trader at the options desk of the firm. Not long after he was made partner, in 1981, Greenberg fired him for a Reg (regulation) D Violation. In SEC parlance, a Reg D violation stands for insider trading.
Epstein was never criminally charged by Bear Stearns but lost his career at the investment house. In 2009, I was told by a source and former model, that Epstein solicited beautiful young working models (all over the age of consent) in New York for business purposes. Her best friend and roommate confirmed the information.
First, Epstein would become friendly with the young models, invite them to parties and dinners and offer them business advice. He would propose an investment strategy to double their earnings. He would require their social security numbers and an investment of ten thousand dollars ($10,000). With limited knowledge of business and even less knowledge of investments, many young models would agree to his terms.
In return for the use of their social security number and ten-thousand-dollar investment, Epstein promised to return the original $10,000 investment within a short period of time plus half the interest made on the original investment. Epstein would retain the other half of the investment as his “fee.” These incidents account for how he got caught and fired by Bear Stearns.
Apparently, the practice went on for several years until he got caught. It also reveals why he surrounded himself by young models in the early days of his career. Perhaps it is also one of the reasons he befriended President Trump. Given the President’s previous ownership (1996-2015) of the Ms. Universe Pageant, it seems Epstein did not veer off course when choosing his prey.
An incident of Epstein’s business interest with young models was revealed in 2004. With an initial investment of $1 million dollars he transferred monies to a Frenchman, Jean Luc Brunel, to open a modeling agency. Brunel, co-founder of MC2 modeling agency has offices in South Beach, Florida, New York and Tel Aviv. By investing in MC2, Epstein had free reign to lure vulnerable girls under the guise of a modeling career from all over the world, help transport the girls legitimately across the globe, and accommodate them in his buildings.
Back to Bear Stearns. In spite of his termination at the firm, Epstein remained close to ACE Greenberg and Jimmy Cayne. Cayne, the one-time CEO known as the first Wall Street CEO “to own company stock worth more than $1 billion,” is still a mythical character on Wall Street. In 2007, it was reported that before the 2008 Wall Street collapse, Cayne sold his entire stake in the firm for $61 million.
It was during his short-lived tenure at Bear Stearns that Epstein became friendly with Leslie Wexner. Founder and CEO of L Brands and owner of Victoria’s Secret among many other retail brands in the United States, Wexner was a staunch Republican and one of the most respected billionaires. For most of his political years, until 2018, he was a generous party donor. In 2018, Mr. Wexner joined the Independent Party.
It did not take long for Wexner and Epstein to become intimate friends and business partners. It was Epstein who also introduced Wexner to his wife, Abigail Koppel. Ms. Koppel, a lawyer, is the mother of their four children. Recently, Mr. Wexner has been identified multiple times by mainstream media and might be under investigation.
Wall Street has always been and will remain a tightly knit enclave. Epstein was never an insider but befriended those who were. On Wall Street one friendship begets another. For players working in the fringes and “non-white shoe-lace” firms such as Bear Stearns, this was certainly the case. Back in the golden days of banking, it was said Ace Greenberg referred to most of his new recruits as PSDs: poor, smart and disadvantaged. Epstein fit all three descriptions.
For a man who could have made the world a far better place for so many, Epstein lost his moral compass and like Icarus, with wings charred, had a cataclysmic fall from Grace.
Conchita Sarnoff is the author of “TrafficKing”, the first book ever published on the Jeffrey Epstein case, which was recently optioned for television. For ten years Sarnoff investigated the darkest recesses of the corridors of power, from Harvard to the White House. And she interviewed the man at the center of the saga, the pedophile billionaire and Wall Street hedge fund manager and registered level-3 sex offender Jeffrey E. Epstein. Despite bribes to stay silent, she risked her life to expose the brutal reality of human trafficking and the Epstein case. Sarnoff originally broke the Epstein story open in 2010 for the Daily Beast. Today she is the executive director of the Alliance to Rescue Victims of Trafficking and the founder of the Georgetown University Human Trafficking Research Center and Clinical program as well as a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service, ISIM Program. Sarnoff has two children and lives in Washington D.C.