Investigations

New York accuser of Jeffrey Epstein, who says she was recruited for sex at 14, sues estate

A woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the estate of sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, claiming that she was recruited in New York and sexually abused for three years, starting when she was 14.

The suit, filed Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, names Epstein’s executors, Darren K. Indyke and Richard D. Kahn, as defendants. Epstein’s estate, valued at more than $500 million, has been placed in a trust, the details of which have not been made public.

Epstein, 66, a politically connected money manager who counted former presidents, senators, celebrities, scientists and other prominent people as associates, was awaiting trial in New York on sex trafficking charges. On Aug. 10, he was found hanging in his cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Manhattan. His death was ruled a suicide.

The civil lawsuit filed Wednesday suggests that Epstein was likely recruiting underage girls in New York using a sex-pyramid scheme similar to the one he was operating in Palm Beach, Florida, from about 2002 to 2007. In both cities, Epstein employed young women to recruit underage girls, most of them from disadvantaged backgrounds, to give him paid massages at his mansions. The massages often turned sexual, with Epstein and his employees then pressuring the girls to bring him more girls, paying them a bounty for each new girl they brought him.

The new victim, identified as “Jane Doe,’’ said that she was recruited by a teenage friend in her New York neighborhood in 2002. Jane Doe and her younger sister lived with their single mother, who was struggling financially. Doe’s younger sister also suffered from a serious condition that required medical care, and their mother was renting out bedrooms in their apartment, leaving no place for Doe to sleep. At the time she met Epstein, she was living with a rotating group of people and working odd jobs to help her mother pay rent, according to the lawsuit.

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Ghislaine Maxwell is named in at least one of the three lawsuits filed Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, against the estate of Jeffrey Epstein.

Doe, now in her early 30s, was brought to Epstein’s New York mansion by the teenager, and the two of them were led by maids up to a massage room, where they were directed to undress, the lawsuit says. Doe was uncomfortable, but went through with the massage, during which Epstein masturbated while instructing the two girls to pinch his nipples. He then paid Jane Doe $300 in cash.

Epstein’s schedulers called Doe a few days later and she returned. Each time, the massages turned more sexual. Epstein pressured Doe to have oral sex, and directed her to engage in sex with other girls and an older, unidentified woman, the lawsuit says.

“While Epstein physically and emotionally hurt and exploited Doe, a vulnerable young girl, she also became financially dependent on him,’’ the suit says. “She stopped attending school and spent almost all her time ‘working’ at his home, gratifying him sexually, or bringing other girls to do the same.’’

In the lawsuit, Doe said she believes that two other women, Sarah Kellen and Leslie Groff, helped facilitate the abuse. The Miami Herald was unsuccessful in obtaining comment from Kellen and Groff on Wednesday.

Doe said she suffers from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. She never graduated from high school and was forced to take “dangerous and often degrading jobs,’’ according to the suit.

The lawsuit also notes that in March, Doe was contacted by federal prosecutors in New York, and she has been cooperating with their investigation. Doe said she is “minor victim 1’’ in the federal indictment filed against Epstein in July. She is the only New York victim listed in the indictment, which was dropped in the wake of Epstein’s death.

Two other victims filed suit against Epstein’s estate in August, and there are several other cases pending that were filed before his death.

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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Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, has said that despite Epstein’s death, the sex trafficking investigation will continue, focusing on people who helped or worked for Epstein.

Epstein escaped serious federal sex charges in 2008, when his legal team, led by lawyers Alan Dershowitz, Jay Lefkowitz, Roy Black, Kenneth Starr and Jack Goldberger, pressured federal prosecutors to give Epstein an unusually lenient plea deal. Then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta signed off on a non-prosecution agreement that gave Epstein and several of his co-conspirators federal immunity.

Epstein secretly pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in state court and served 13 months in the Palm Beach County Jail, where he was given liberal work release privileges.

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Jeffrey Epstein wanted to await trial in New York in his seven-story mansion, not in his jail cell. The judge said no. He died behind bars in what was ruled a suicide. Kevin Hagen Getty Images

The new charges in New York came several months after the Miami Herald’s published its investigative series Perversion of Justice, which explored controversial elements of the 2008 plea deal that was approved by the Justice Department despite credible allegations that Epstein had sexually abused dozens of underage girls.

The series renewed prosecutors’ interest in Epstein — and helped lead Berman to launch a new criminal probe and grand jury investigation. Epstein was arrested in July. That same month, Acosta, who by then had been serving as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, resigned under pressure, as a result of his role in the case.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also have ongoing investigations into the case, examining whether there was any criminal wrongdoing connected to Epstein’s 2008 plea deal.

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