Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein pled not guilty on Monday to charges that he ran a sex-trafficking ring and sexually abused dozens of underage girls over a period of about four years.
Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed an indictment against the well-connected financier on Monday, charging him with one count of sex trafficking minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
Epstein, a registered sex offender, was arrested Saturday in New Jersey after his private plane returned from Paris. He is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said the billionaire hedge-fund manager committed the offenses between 2002 and 2005 in his Manhattan mansion and his Palm Beach home. The indictment alleges that Epstein had underage girls massage him while nude or partially nude, masturbated as he touched and was touched by the girls, and paid his victims hundreds of dollars to engage in sex acts with him as well as to recruit new victims.
Epstein allegedly knew that the girls, some as young as 14, were underage.
Federal agents who raided Epstein’s seven-story Manhattan town house on Monday found “evidence, including nude photographs of what appeared to be underage girls,” said Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Berman added that prosecutors believe Epstein to be a “significant flight risk” given his wealth and the weight of the charges against him. The 66-year-old Epstein faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
In 2008, the Southern District of Florida gave Epstein a non-prosecution plea deal on prostitution charges, sentencing him to a mere 13 months in prison and allowing him to avoid a federal trial, in a decision that was ruled illegal by a federal judge in Florida earlier this year because it was not made in consultation with the victims.