For those who flew on Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express,’ the feds want to talk to you
NEW YORK – After Jeffrey Epstein’s latest arrest on sex trafficking charges, some famous people may be squirming. His notorious little black book and private-jet manifests contained a long list of boldface names, including Victoria’s Secret founder Leslie Wexner, U.S. President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton.
U.S. prosecutors Monday encouraged anyone with information about Epstein’s conduct to come forward, not just potential victims. To the socialites, celebrities and politicians who attended lavish parties at Epstein’s homes in Manhattan or Palm Beach in the early 2000s — or hitched rides on his private jet nicknamed the “Lolita Express” by the tabloids — the request carried a clear message: Come talk to us before we seek you out.
“You would much rather be visiting the Department of Justice and engaging a conversation about what you saw rather than making the DOJ find you,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor now at Dickinson-Wright. “There’s a much greater potential for influencing the parameters of an interview and the scope of cooperation by going in voluntarily than becoming a compulsory guest” of the government, he said.
Considering the dozens of alleged victims and hundreds of names on Epstein’s contact list, the Epstein affair could be far from over. Some of the alleged victims have claimed they were farmed out to other men.
Although the alleged crimes date back to 2002, new information continues to arise. Epstein’s little black book was published by Gawker in 2015, years after he pleaded guilty in Florida for soliciting an underage prostitute. On Saturday the FBI, using a crowbar on one of the most expensive properties in Manhattan, executed a search warrant on Epstein’s Manhattan town house. Agents gathered photographs of underage girls in suggestive poses, according to prosecutors.
For his part, Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday to the charges of sex trafficking. Prosecutors have accused him of luring girls as young as 14 to his luxury homes in New York and Florida and paying them for sex acts.
An indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan accused Epstein, 66, of arranging for girls to perform nude “massages” and other sex acts, and paying some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005.
“The alleged behavior shocks the conscience, and while the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims, now young women,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a news conference. “They deserve their day in court.”
The call to action by prosecutors and the discovery that Epstein, a registered sex offender, possessed explicit photos could lead to additional charges, Frenkel said.
In this way, prosecutors’ request for more evidence poses a threat to any of Epstein’s associates who also engaged in sex with minors. It also raises the stakes for those who attended his parties and might have inferred that something was wrong with the fact that so many grown men were surrounded by girls who appeared to be teenagers.
To be sure, Epstein’s contact list includes many prominent people, both men and women, who are fixtures in the celebrity party scene.
The black book contains more than 1,000 names, ranging from close friends like Wexner to peripheral contacts from the worlds of politics, business, the media and European high society. The U.K.’s Prince Andrew and members of the Trump family make appearances. There’s even an entry for the main number to the White House.
The names include well-known performers, including Ralph Fiennes, Alec Baldwin, David Blaine, Jimmy Buffett and Courtney Love; media figures including Charlie Rose, Mike Wallace and Barbara Walters; former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, industrialist David Koch and the late Salomon Brothers Chief Executive Officer John Gutfreund and his wife, Susan.
Frenkel said the case could develop much like the college-admissions scandal, in which a number of wealthy parents have been charged with paying bribes to get their children into top-tier colleges. More than a dozen have pleaded guilty.
“Once the key witnesses flip, including the victims, the potential is there for other participants to be implicated directly,” he said. “That could be a veiled message in the U.S. attorney’s invitation to decide early whether to hunker down or come forward and get credit or acknowledgment for cooperation to avoid indictment.”
On Monday, Berman pleaded for people to come forward with any information about Epstein’s conduct, asking them to call 800-CALL-FBI. While some of Epstein’s alleged victims have accused him of providing them to other men for sexual services, the named men have categorically denied such conduct.