Convicted in 1997 of a Ponzi scheme he accused Jeffrey Epstein of participating in, Steven Hoffenberg was found dead Tuesday in his Derby, Connecticut, home, according to Rolling Stone. The cause and manner of death remain unknown, as Hoffenberg’s body was badly decomposed. He was 77 years old.
The Derby Police Department told Rolling Stone in a statement that officers responded to a welfare check around 8 p.m. Tuesday when they found “the body of a white male… in a state where a visual identification could not be made.”
An initial autopsy yielded no signs of trauma.
The welfare check was requested by an artist named Maria Farmer, who claimed she was sexually abused by Epstein decades ago. She told Rolling Stone she was in daily contact with Hoffenberg and reached out to the police when her repeated calls to Hoffenberg weren’t returned.
Hoffenberg hired Epstein as a consultant for his debt-collection agency Towers Financial in 1983, according to The New York Times. He allegedly paid Epstein $25,000 monthly for Epstein’s business connections, which the pair used to lure investors in an unsuccessful 1987 attempt to take over Pan Am Airlines.
Towers Financial reportedly sold more than $460 million in fraudulent bonds and notes and used that money to pay interest owed to previous investors. Hoffenberg was arrested in 1994.
Prosecutors at the time said it was one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history.
Hoffenberg pleaded guilty to mail fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice and admitted having moved money between companies to fool investors that they were making a profit. He exposed Epstein as the “architect” of the scheme, only for the multimillionaire financier’s name to mysteriously vanish from the record.
“I thought Jeffrey was the best hustler on two feet,” Hoffenberg told The Washington Post in 2019. “Talent, charisma, genius, a criminal mastermind. We had a thing that could make a lot of money. We called it Ponzi.”
Hoffenberg, who owned a private jet, limousine, yacht, Long Island mansion and New York City apartment, pleaded guilty to the charges. He was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
Epstein freely groomed, raped and trafficked girls and young women in the meantime, only to be arrested in 2019. He was found dead in his New York City jail cell in August 2019. His accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, was arrested by the FBI in 2020. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison in June.
Hoffenberg, who briefly served as the court-appointed manager of the New York Post in 1993, apparently spent much of his later years helping victims of sex abuse. Farmer told Rolling Stone she wanted “people to know how kind this gentleman was to survivors while asking for nothing.”
Hoffenberg told NPR in 2019 following Epstein’s death: “I’m the first one in line to assist the victims. At 74, I’d like to go to the pearly gates assisting the victims.”