The story behind a Palm Beach sex offender’s remarkable deal
My sister knew his girlfriend. Maybe I handed him my business card once. We met at a party a long time ago.
Those are the kinds of answers offered by people listed in Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book.” Asked why they’re in Epstein’s book and you’ll hear a lot of throat clearing, vague answers and head-scratching befuddlement.
That’s if you get any answer at all.
Epstein’s address book included the home phone numbers of billionaires, Wall Street titans, Hollywood icons and top-tier athletes. It also included an array of everyday people whose lives intersected with the late accused pedophile financier and his muse.
The 92-page book has circulated widely since the defunct website Gawker published it in 2015, saying it appeared in court documents from Epstein’s 2008 prosecution.
Being in the book doesn’t mean the listed person did anything wrong. But the black book has garnered renewed attention since Epstein’s arrest for sex trafficking in July and death by hanging in his jail cell, deemed a suicide, on Aug. 10.
McClatchy and the Miami Herald recently set about calling most of the names in the black book that listed U.S. phone numbers. Given the present toxicity of all things Epstein, few messages were returned and many calls were ducked.
“It’s a major concern to be grouped together with him, you have your reputation to uphold,” said William Moran, a lawyer specializing in crisis management for the firm Otterbourg. “A lot of these people are making efforts to distance themselves.”
Those who did comment often said they were in the book because of their ties to Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s socialite girlfriend, alleged enabler and business associate.
“He relied on her to introduce him to all kinds of interesting people,” said Christopher Mason, who is in the black book and is the TV host of series “Behind Mansion Walls,” which chronicles murders in famous houses.
Mason, a flamboyant bow-tie-wearing Brit, came to know Epstein in a curious way through Maxwell.
“I was commissioned by her to write a song about him on his 40th birthday — to write a song and perform it,” Mason said, noting he ran into Epstein and Maxwell just a handful of times afterward.
Alan Quartucci was surprised to be in the black book. He is a bloodstock agent, an expert at finding promising Thoroughbreds in New York and Kentucky for clients looking to purchase or partner in the ownership of a race horse.
“I never even met the guy. I think I had dinner once or twice with Ghislaine Maxwell,” he said, noting they had met in an airport.
Similarly, director and film producer Julia Verdin, reached at her West Hollywood-based Rough Diamond Productions, said she had never met Epstein. She knew Maxwell because “she was a colleague of my sister.”
Ditto for Carolyn Roumeguere, whose high-end jewelry and design is featured in luxury magazines.
“Ghislaine Maxwell bought some of my jewelry over the years. I never met Mr. Epstein,” she said.
Jeff Hirsch never met Epstein but heard him bark at Maxwell over the phone. He is in the black book, apparently, because about a decade ago he sold a $6,000 camera to Maxwell and went to her home to provide some technical hand-holding for a wealthy client.
“She would get very demanding calls from someone who I learned was her boyfriend, this guy Epstein. That was as close as I got to him,” said Hirsch, whose shop Foto Care is a New York institution. “When you went to her townhouse, you walked into the foyer and there is a Warhol [painting] on the wall.
Of the elusive Maxwell, Hirsch recalled, “She was gorgeous, she was very alluring. There was always a double-entendre when she spoke, you always wondered what it was all about.”
Maxwell, 57, has become an item of international intrigue, staying out of the public eye except to appear in a photo, published by the New York Post, at a Los Angeles In-N-Out Burger holding a book about espionage. London’s Daily Mail later reported that metadata from the photo was tagged with Meadowgate, the name of her attorney and close friend’s company. The tabloid said the dog by her feet belonged to the lawyer as well, pointing to this as proof that the Post’s scoop was really a case of the paper falling for a staged photo.
Ghislaine’s father Robert Maxwell was a venerable British newspaper publisher and former member of parliament who named his yacht the Lady Ghislaine.
The publisher died mysteriously in 1991, found floating in the Atlantic Ocean and said to have fallen off his yacht. He was buried not in England but Jerusalem, and several books have since alleged he was an Israeli superspy who was murdered. Robert Maxwell had nine children, most of whom are in the black book, too.
The big names in the black book have drawn broad attention — people like Ivanka Trump, her mother Ivana and now-President Donald J. Trump, who insists the two men have long been estranged.
Nonetheless, Epstein had various numbers for Trump in New York and Palm Beach. He also had Trump’s personal AOL email address. The Trump black book entry included three numbers for his wife, Melania, misspelled as Milania.
The black book also has some oddities. Among the entries is Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the 91-year-old sex therapist who has enjoyed radio and television popularity for decades. She could not be reached for comment.
For a certain age demographic, the entry for Koo Stark is notable. She was a former actress, model and photographer who dated Britain’s Prince Andrew in the early 1980s, causing an uproar that royalty would mingle with the star of a racy coming-of-age movie “Emily,” described as soft porn.
Prince Andrew is featured in the Epstein saga because one of the multimillionaire’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, alleges in court documents that in 2001, when she was a teen, she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew — a charge he denied as “categorically untrue.” A photo shows the prince, with Maxwell smiling in the background, with his arm around her bare midriff.
The black book is full of big names in Wall Street finance, and few would discuss their relationship with Epstein. One big name is Lew Ranieri, sometimes called the father of mortgage-backed securities. Those complex financial instruments nearly blew up the U.S. financial system in 2008.
Both Ranieri and Epstein were big players in the the trend toward slicing and dicing of mortgages and other loans into complex securities.
“I represent Lew Ranieri. He is declining comment on your inquiry,” said Owen Blicksilver, a PR representative.
Others were baffled as to why they’re in Epstein’s files.
“I met him once at a party … I certainly did not know him well,” said Alexandra “Sandy” Golinkin, who runs Raising the Bar, a career guidance service. “Literally I just met him once, sorry to be so boring.”
Victoria Gray had more interaction with Epstein. She said he funded her scholarship program nearly two decades ago for young women aged 21 to 35 that functioned as sort of a genius grant to allow recipients to pursue research interests. Epstein unsuccessfully proposed lowering the scholarship age to 18, she said.
“In my case, because I was very good friends with Murray Gell-Mann. … I think I was a high-value target for him, and I think he liked me. We used to talk for hours,” she said of Epstein, noting she knew nothing of his dark side.
Gell-Mann was a Nobel laureate who won the prize for physics in 1969. He was one of numerous top-level scientists befriended by Epstein.
People from South Florida who appear in the black book largely steered clear of discussing Epstein.
Like Trump, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine appears in the volume, with 14 phone entries. He declined to call a Miami Herald reporter but in text messages said he’d met Epstein “a couple of times,” but couldn’t recall how they’d met.
“No clue,” he wrote. “Probably at a NY event.”
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
Local Reporting Makes a Difference
In her year-long investigation of Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown tracked down more than 60 women who said they were victims of abuse and revealed the full story behind the sweetheart deal cut by Epstein’s powerhouse legal team.
Since the Herald published ‘Perversion of Justice’ in November 2018, a federal judge ruled the non-prosecution agreement brokered by then South Florida U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta was illegal, Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in New York state, Acosta resigned as U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Epstein killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell.
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Levine couldn’t explain why Epstein had so many contacts for the former mayor and Clinton fundraiser.
“We probably met probably 15-20 years ago at a social event in NY — and probably exchanged biz cards,” Levine wrote. “I really don’t recall where and when. Never had any interactions with him and didn’t meet beyond that.”
A fellow executive confirmed that Luca Giussani, president of Dorial Telecom in Miami Beach, had received a request for comment and would comment if he so chose. Giussani, whose company got FCC authority in 2012, did not offer any comment as to why he is in the black book.
Katrin Theodoli, owner of Magnum Marine, a storied luxury boat builder in Aventura, is in the black book. She took the helm of the company when her husband Filippo died in 1990 and remains the only woman CEO of a major yacht company. It’s unclear why she appears in the book, and a staffer said Theodoli was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
Caroline Stark appears in the black book under AON Risk Services in Miami. She now goes by the married surname Parrish and responded by voicemail, saying she used to sell personal lines of insurance to high net worth individuals.
“Apparently he had my contact information,” she said, declining to discuss any further.
One person who did see Epstein in South Florida occasionally was comedian Bobby Slayton, who at one time went by the stage name Yid Vicious.
Interviewed by phone, Slayton/Vicious said Ghislaine Maxwell reached out to him about performing for a 50th birthday bash for Epstein. The party was called off, but Epstein attended Slayton’s shows when he was in West Palm Beach, Miami or New York.
“I’ve seen him a few times over the years, we weren’t pals and I didn’t know anything about that stuff,” said Slayton, adding that Epstein “always had a beautiful woman with him, an airline pilot, but I never saw anyone underage.”
Slayton said he went to the New York mansion once for coffee, and was invited to the private island but did not go. He then shifted into comedian mode, lamenting that at his age his friends and fans were dying off.
“Another fan bites the dust,” he said of Epstein, adding, “I was so hoping to be in his will.”
To be sure, it’s a long shot
Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed.