By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN Associated Press
HAVANA (AP) — A lawsuit filed by prosecutors in the Virgin Islands says multimillionaire sex offender Jeffery Epstein used two private islands in the U.S. territory to engage in a nearly two-decade conspiracy to traffic and abuse girls.
At one point, the suit filed Wednesday alleges, Epstein and associates organized a search party to catch a 15-year-old victim trying to swim away, and kept her passport to keep her captive.
The lawsuit seeks to confiscate hundreds of millions of dollars from Epstein’s estate in the Virgin Islands, including private islands Little St. James and Great St. James, which the suit values at $86 million.
“The complaint speaks for itself and lays out allegations of a pattern and practice of human trafficking, sexual abuse and forced labor of young women and female children as young as 13 years old,” Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise N. George told reporters Wednesday.
The lawsuit alleges that even after Epstein’s August suicide in federal detention in New York, his associates “continued to conspire to prevent detection of the Epstein Enterprise’s criminal wrongdoing and to prevent accountability.”
“These conspiratorial acts are ongoing,” the lawsuit says.
The trust controlling Epstein’s $577 million estate is based in the Virgin Islands.
The co-executors of Epstein’s estate said Wednesday the estate “is being administered in accordance with the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands.” They released a statement challenging the lawsuit’s claim that Epstein victims must keep their claims confidential in order to participate in a voluntary compensation fund.
“The suggestion that the program was intended to conceal any information or to shield anyone from liability or accountability is unfounded, directly contrary to the details of the proposed program and false.”
From 2001 to 2018, Epstein and associates flew girls from other countries to the Virgin Islands, then moved them by boat and helicopter to Epstein’s property on Little St. James. Epstein bought the neighboring island to protect his illegal activity from being seen, the lawsuit claims. The lawsuit says the girls were between 12 and 17, although George said the youngest were 13.
Many were lured with the promise of modeling opportunities, the lawsuit says. Epstein and his associates kept a computerized list of underage girls in or close to the Virgin Islands, the suit says.
Although he was required to register as a sex offender in the Virgin Islands after pleading guilty in a Florida case, Epstein successfully turned away Virgin Islands officials and U.S. Marshals from Little St. James, saying its dock was his front door.
He arranged to meet the law enforcement officials at his office on the island of St. Thomas, the lawsuit says.
Along with the 15-year-old girl who tried to swim away, the lawsuit describes a victim who was hired to provide massages, then forced to perform sex acts on Little St. James.
She attempted to escape but was caught by a search party and threatened with physical restraint and other harm if she didn’t cooperate, the lawsuit says.
“The conduct of Jeffrey Epstein and his associates shocks the conscience and betrays the deepest principles and laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” George said. “The Virgin Islands is not, and will not, be a safe haven for human trafficking or sexual exploitation.”