Soon after the Miami Herald began reporting on his favorable treatment by law enforcement in an early 2000s sex crimes investigation, jet-setting financier Jeffrey Epstein paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to people investigators had identified as possible co-conspirators — payments which federal prosecutors alleged Friday might have been meant to influence them.
The allegation came in a court filing by federal prosecutors in New York, who recently arrested and charged Epstein with sexually abusing dozens of young girls from 2002 to 2005. The arrest set in motion a chain of events that led to the resignation Friday of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami during the earlier investigation of Epstein.
In seeking to keep the multimillionaire jailed pending trial, prosecutors in New York argued Epstein had a history of trying to obstruct inquiries into his misdeeds, including those from journalists.
Prosecutors wrote they had obtained financial records showing that in November 2018, just two days after the Herald reported on a favorable plea arrangement Epstein received, he wired $100,000 to someone identified as possible co-conspirator in the case. Three days after that, he wired $250,000 to another person identified as a possible co-conspirator, prosecutors wrote.
"Neither of these payments appears to be recurring or repeating during the approximately five years of bank records presently available to the Government," prosecutors wrote. "This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations."
The co-conspirators are not named, and prosecutors did not say in precisely what manner Epstein may have been trying to exert influence.
Officials have credited investigative journalism with helping reignite the investigation into Epstein, who resolved the early 2000s sex crimes investigation by pleading guilty to just two state charges and spending about 13 months in jail, with work release privileges.
That arrangement, which had been widely criticized as being too lenient, received new scrutiny this week after federal prosecutors in New York unsealed the new sex trafficking charges against Epstein. Acosta, who approved the earlier deal, announced Friday he was stepping down as labor secretary amid the controversy.
Prosecutors' filing Friday was a response to defense attorneys request that Epstein be let out on bail before his trial. They wrote in a court filing that Epstein was willing to put up his Manhattan mansion and private jet as collateral and agree to home confinement and GPS monitoring and even pay for 24/7 security to do so.
Prosecutors fired back that Epstein remained a significant flight risk and a danger to the community.
They said they had recently obtained records from a financial institution showing he was worth "more than $500 million" and earns at least $10 million a year. They said there "would be little to stop the defendant from fleeing, transferring his unknown assets abroad, and then continuing to do whatever it is he does to earn his vast wealth from a computer terminal beyond the reach of extradition."
Prosecutors wrote that, since the indictment was unsealed Monday, "several additional women, in multiple jurisdictions, have identified themselves to the Government as having been victimized by the defendant when they were minors," and dozens had called to provide information.