The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office says it will conduct an internal investigation into whether deputies failed to properly supervise accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 and 2009 while he was serving a surprisingly lenient sentence thanks to a federal plea deal.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is facing increasing scrutiny as more details emerge about Epstein’s incarceration in Palm Beach, Florida, where he was allowed to participate in a work-release program and leave jail for 12 hours a day, six days a week.
Epstein could have faced life in prison after police found evidence he trafficked and sexually molested dozens of underage girls in his Palm Beach mansion. Instead, under the federal deal, he was sentenced to 18 months in county jail, of which he served only 13 months.
Even though sheriff’s office policy bans sex offenders from work release, deputies allowed Epstein to leave because he didn’t register as a sex offender until after he fulfilled his jail sentence, reports the Palm Beach Post.
Epstein spent his time outside the county jail at a nonprofit he’d founded called the Florida Science Foundation. After his release from jail, Epstein was allowed to fulfill his community service requirements at the same nonprofit.
Financial records obtained by WPTV Thursday show the Florida Science Foundation paid the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office $128,136 while Epstein was incarcerated.
The money was reportedly used to pay off-duty deputies to guard Epstein while he was at the foundation. It’s unclear why the funds came from the nonprofit instead of directly from Epstein.
It’s also unclear how effective the deputies were. Attorney Bradley Edwards, who represents dozens of Epstein’s accusers, alleged earlier this week that Epstein engaged in improper sexual contact while he was on work release at the Florida Science Foundation.
“He was not sitting there conducting some scientific research for the betterment of the community, but he was having office visitors, some who were flown to him from New York, and continuing to engage in similar conduct even while he was in ― quote, unquote ― jail,” Edwards said at a press conference in New York on Tuesday.
Julie Brown, a reporter for the Miami Herald who is investigating the Epstein saga, says deputies “never checked” to see what Epstein was doing in his office. Visitors’ logs with information on whom they checked in and out have “mysteriously disappeared.”
“He paid these deputies a lot of money, and they would not talk to me,” Brown added in a Twitter thread. “It’s time they come clean for the good of other hardworking people in law enforcement who don’t look the other way when convicted sex offenders commit crimes.”
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office told the Sun-Sentinel the records were legally destroyed as part of a routine records purge.
In an emailed statement, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Theresa Barbera told HuffPost that “all aspects of the matter will be fully investigated to ensure total transparency and accountability.”
“Sheriff Bradshaw takes these matters very seriously,” she added, “and wants to determine if any actions taken by the deputies assigned to monitor Epstein during his work release program violated any agency rules and regulations, during the time he was on PBSO work release program.”