Passport, valuables show Jeffrey Epstein will flee: Prosecutors

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on July 15th, 2019

New York City: Federal prosecutors said in court Monday investigators found a phony passport, diamonds and valuable artwork inside billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s $77 million Manhattan home — a sign, they said, the accused sex trafficker will flee the United States if he’s granted bail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller made the remarks at Epstein’s bail hearing Monday. He said Epstein’s wealth makes him a major flight risk and gives him the ability to possibly tamper with witnesses.

Rossmiller said a search of the home found an expired passport listing Epstein’s country of residence as Saudi Arabia.

Epstein, 66, was arrested earlier this month on charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors between 2002 and 2005. At Monday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman postponed making a decision about Epstein’s bail until Thursday.

Two women who say they were assaulted by Epstein urged Berman to keep him in jail. Monday was the first time the women faced Epstein in court.

“Your honor, my name is Courtney Wild and I was sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein at the age of 14,” said one, who accused Epstein of assaulting her in Palm Beach, Fla. “He is a scary person to have walking the street.”

“I was 16 years old when I had the misfortune of meeting Mr. Epstein here in New York,” said the other woman, Alice Farmer. “I want to voice my support (against his release). We know they have found photos of young women in his home.”

Epstein attorney Martin Weinberg said Monday prosecutors have failed to prove his client continued to have illegal relationships with underage girls. Epstein pleaded guilty as part of a 2008 deal in a separate Florida case that accused him of sexual misconduct with a minor — a controversial deal given by former Miami prosecutor Alex Acosta, who resigned last week as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary.

Weinberg said Epstein is willing to accept a bail amount as high as $100 million and be confined to his New York City mansion.

Lawyers for Epstein said their client, who wore dark blue jail scrubs in court, has had an unblemished record since he pleaded guilty more than a decade ago to a state prostitution charge in Florida and agreed to register as a sex offender.

Critics have called that plea deal, which let Epstein avoid federal prosecution, too lenient.

Epstein is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a fortress-like jail that has been criticized by inmates and lawyers for harsh conditions.

He pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges on July 8, two days after his arrest at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, where he had flown back on his private plane from Paris. Epstein faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

Cash, Diamonds

Epstein is accused of arranging for girls under the age of 18 to perform nude “massages” and other sex acts, and of paying some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005.

A prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller, on Monday told the judge that a search of Epstein’s home uncovered nude images of underage girls, including at least one who claimed to be among the financier’s victims.

The prosecutor said other items found in the search include cash, diamonds and a passport that appeared to have been issued by a foreign country in the 1980s that containing Epstein’s photo, but someone else’s name.

Last week, prosecutors said in a court filing that Epstein made payments to potential witnesses last year in an apparent effort to influence them.

Few details about Epstein’s wealth are known. As part of his bail application, he provided a summary of his finances to prosecutors, and Berman on Monday ordered that it be made public.

The one-page document gives a total value of $559,120,954 for Epstein’s assets, including four homes, two private islands, equities, hedge funds and more than $56 million in cash.

One of Epstein’s lawyers, Martin Weinberg, told Berman on Monday that Epstein needed to be out of jail so he and his lawyers could prepare their defense.

In 2016, Berman rejected a similar bail proposal from Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to let him live in an apartment under the watch of privately funded guards, saying wealthy defendants should not be allowed to “buy their way out of prison by constructing their own private jail.”

The judge expressed similar skepticism on Monday, noting that all defendants have the same right to prepare their defense as Epstein.

“If that’s the standard, then what are we going to tell all those people who can’t make the $500 or $1,000 bail?” he said.

Under his earlier Florida agreement, Epstein served 13 months in a county jail, but was allowed to go to his office during the day.

A federal judge ruled in February that the agreement violated a federal law on crime victims’ rights.

Alex Acosta, who as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida oversaw Epstein’s earlier deal, resigned on Friday as Trump’s Secretary of Labor, saying he did not want to be a distraction for the White House.

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