Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy money manager, has long been accused of luring young women and underaged girls to his various homes so he could sexually abuse them. Only in the past year has his misconduct been the focus of intense national media scrutiny, sparked by a bombshell 2018 Miami Herald report revealing that reporters had identified about 80 women who say Epstein abused them from 2001 to 2006.
Epstein reportedly had a well-oiled system in place to procure young girls, some of whom also accused his close associate Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite, of aiding him. When the girls and women began speaking to law enforcement, Epstein’s team of heavyweight attorneys dug up dirt on them to cast doubt on their reputations.
As the Me Too movement helped strip away much of Epstein’s privilege, however, we are slowly getting a fuller picture of the atrocious crimes he may have committed.
Details of Epstein’s life and wealth are still hazy. We know he secured a secret, highly controversial plea deal in 2008 thanks to former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, who is now President Donald Trump’s labor secretary. We know Epstein is likely not a billionaire, despite widespread reports labeling him as such. And we know he has been praised by his wealthy friends in glossy magazine profiles. But there are many other questions that leave us grasping for answers.
As more information comes to light, below is a non-exhaustive timeline of Epstein’s life, career and misdeeds.
1953: Born in New York City
Epstein and his younger brother, Mark, were raised by middle-class parents in Brooklyn, according to a 2003 Vanity Fair profile. The boys’ father worked for the city’s parks department.
Early 1970s: Drops out of college
By all accounts, Epstein dabbled in college education but never obtained a degree. From 1969 to 1971, Epstein attended the Cooper Union School of Engineering, a spokeswoman confirmed to HuffPost. A spokesman for New York University told HuffPost that Epstein then took classes as a visiting student there from September 1971 to June 1974, but he did not take part in a specific degree program. (New York magazine states that he attended the Courant School of Mathematics.)
1973: Hired to teach math and physics at Manhattan’s private Dalton School
HuffPost confirmed that Epstein landed a gig at the elite school during Donald Barr’s stint as headmaster. Donald is the father of current Attorney General William Barr, who refuses to recuse himself in Epstein’s case. According to New York Magazine in its 2002 profile of Epstein, he was “something of a Robin Williams–in–‘Dead Poets Society’ type of figure, wowing his high-school classes with passionate mathematical riffs.” But former Dalton teachers, students and parents contacted by HuffPost’s Rebecca Klein had varied memories of the young instructor, with some not remembering him at all. Some noticed red flags in his behavior, way back then, while others simply recalled the eye-catching fur coat he liked to wear.
Several emails to the Dalton School seeking comment went unanswered.
1976: Joins Bear Stearns
Epstein left Dalton, according to New York and Vanity Fair, after a student’s father urged him to pursue a career on Wall Street. He then spent a few years as a trader at the now-defunct investment bank, reported New York, which called his ascent “rapid.”
1982: Launches his own company
J. Epstein & Co. ― still apparently operating today ― services individuals and families with $1 billion or more to manage. From New York:
He would take total control of the billion dollars, charge a flat fee, and assume power of attorney to do whatever he thought was necessary to advance his client’s financial cause.
Les Wexner, founder of underwear maker L Brands ― which includes mall staples Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works ― is Epstein’s only confirmed client. Vanity Fair reported in 2003 that the two men were very close.
1990: Purchases a secluded compound in Palm Beach, Florida
The mansion, where it is alleged that Epstein sexually abused many underage girls for money, is partially obscured by tall hedges and bumps up to a cove.
1992: Attends a Mar-a-Lago party with Donald Trump and 28 women
Yes, the only people at the party were Trump, Epstein and 28 young women flown in to provide “the entertainment,” in the form of a private pageant, The New York Times reported July 9. Party planner George Houraney expressed disbelief that the event would cater to only the two men and concern that Epstein would be present.
“I said, ‘Look, Donald, I know Jeff really well, I can’t have him going after younger girls,’” Houraney told the Times. “He said, ‘Look I’m putting my name on this. I wouldn’t put my name on it and have a scandal.’” Trump claims he and Epstein later had a falling out.
1996: Relocates his company to the U.S. Virgin Islands
Epstein also renamed his company the Financial Trust Co. The relocation was reportedly made for tax purposes. In 2002, New York reported that the company consisted of 150 “purely administrative” employees. Public information about the operation is scant ― including a list of clients.
Late 1990s: Moves into a Manhattan mansion
How Epstein acquired the mansion at 9 E. 71st St., considered Manhattan’s largest, remains a mystery. The New York Times reported that Epstein declared it to be his property in a 1996 interview. According to Bloomberg, which cited one anonymous source familiar with the matter, Wexner sold the home in 1998 to a company affiliated with Epstein. Public records show the title transfer was not made until 2011, for no money.
Several of Epstein’s accusers say that mansion is where he sexually assaulted them. It is reportedly very weird inside.
1998: Purchases Little St. James Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands
In an alarming report, The Associated Press described how people who lived in the area surrounding Epstein’s extremely private oasis started calling it “pedophile island” when molestation accusations against him were first made public. Epstein hired hundreds of workers to build a stone mansion on the island along with a bizarre, temple-like structure nearby. But most of the former employees of Epstein’s refused to speak to the AP, citing long nondisclosure agreements they had signed.
Little St. James is his main place of residence. Epstein allegedly ran a sex trafficking ring here (and at his other properties) with Maxwell, who allegedly recruited the young girls, some in their early teens.
Around 1999: Allegedly forces an underaged Mar-a-Lago worker to have sex with Prince Andrew and lawyer Alan Dershowitz
In 2015, Virginia Roberts said in a sworn affidavit that Maxwell initially approached her while she was working at Mar-a-Lago and offered to provide her with massage training. She was then brought to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, where she said Epstein abused her beginning in 1999, when she was 15 years old. She said the abuse continued for several years, during which she says she was passed around to other famous men.
(Roberts later sued Maxwell for defamation and settled out of court.)
2002: Allegedly rapes New York City high school student at his New York mansion
In a July 2019 interview with NBC’s “Today” show, Jennifer Araoz said she was approached at age 14 by a young woman outside her high school in 2001 and brought to Epstein’s enormous townhouse for the first time. There, he would abuse her and pay her money over the following year, culminating in what she described as a forcible rape.
Also 2002: Called “terrific” by Donald Trump and travels with Bill Clinton
“I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” Trump told New York for its profile of Epstein. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
In 2002 and 2003, former President Bill Clinton took four trips in Epstein’s private jet to Europe, Asia and Africa, according to a statement from Clinton.
One of Epstein’s victims says she once saw Clinton on the island, but he denies ever being there.
2005: Reported to police by a 14-year-old girl and her parents
The teenager said in March 2005 that she was taken by a peer to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion, where she says he paid her to give him a massage. An ensuing police investigation signaled that Epstein was in contact with multiple girls, and his staff said the girls visited frequently.
May 2006: Charged with multiple counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor
The state attorney at the time, Barry Krischer, referred the case to a grand jury. A grand jury heard from just two of the dozen-plus girls law enforcement had gathered as witnesses, the Miami Herald reported, and returned an indictment of one count of soliciting prostitution.
July 2006: Referred to the FBI for investigation
Under pressure from Palm Beach police, who were unhappy with the state’s handling of its case against Epstein, the FBI launched its own investigation.
2007: Floats a plea deal with Acosta, the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time
As the U.S. attorney’s office prepared a 53-page indictment in June, the Miami Herald reported, Epstein’s attorneys began speaking about a potential plea deal for their client. In October, Acosta and one attorney for Epstein tentatively agreed at a West Palm Beach Marriott meeting to a deal in which Epstein would plead guilty to two felony prostitution charges. Stunningly, the victims would also not be notified of the agreement and all grand jury subpoenas would be voided, according to the newspaper.
June 2008: Appears in court to plead guilty on two lesser counts and sentenced to a cushy 18 months in jail
Emails obtained by the Miami Herald show that, during months of back-and-forth negotiations between Epstein’s attorneys and Acosta’s office, Acosta continually caved to the businessman’s demands. Finally, Acosta signed off on a non-prosecution agreement that was “negotiated, signed and sealed so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes,” the Herald stated.
Epstein appeared in a Palm Beach County courtroom on June 30, 2008, with none of his accusers present. He was required to register as a sex offender and report to jail.
The Miami Herald also noted that Epstein began the process of settling “at least a dozen” other lawsuits out of court around this time.
July 2008: Accusers learn about secret plea deal
The women promptly begin the very lengthy process of challenging it in court.
July 2009: Released from jail five months early
Epstein was allowed to serve his 18-month jail sentence in a private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, where he hired his own security detail and was allowed to go to work six days a week, up to 12 hours per day, the Herald reported.
2011: Told to register as a sex offender in New York City
It was later revealed that Epstein never once checked in with the New York Police Department in the eight years since he was told to do so every 90 days in order to verify his address.
2018: The Miami Herald publishes its exposé on Epstein’s long history of alleged sexual abuse
The in-depth Herald series, published in November 2018, sparked renewed public outrage over the privileged financier, coming at a time when both sexual misconduct and judicial inequality have become topics of intense public scrutiny.
July 2019: Arrested and indicted for sex trafficking underage girls
In a long-sought win for Epstein’s accusers, the financier was arrested on July 6, 2019, on charges of child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Prosecutors accused him in a grand jury indictment of paying dozens of girls as young as 14 to engage in sex acts with him at his New York and Florida properties from 2002 to 2005.
Epstein pleaded not guilty and could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
On July 11, more than a dozen women ― who are, according to their attorneys, previously unknown to law enforcement ― came forward with sexual abuse accusations against Epstein, according to the Herald.
Authorities are encouraging others who haven’t yet come forward to contact the FBI.