NEW YORK — Jeffrey Epstein, the financier facing sex-trafficking charges in New York, was accused of witness tampering on Friday by federal prosecutors, who said he wired $350,000 to two people who were potential witnesses against him.
Epstein sent the money to the potential witnesses in late November and early December, shortly after the Miami Herald published an investigative report about a secret deal he had reached with authorities in Florida to avoid federal prosecution, prosecutors said.
The US attorney’s office in Manhattan made the allegations in a court filing asking that Epstein be denied bail while he awaits trial, saying the payments were evidence that he might try to influence witnesses if he were not detained.
Epstein’s lawyers maintain their client has lived a law-abiding life for the past 14 years, since he pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida and served 13 months in jail. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges in New York.
But prosecutors said Epstein had paid significant amounts of money to influence individuals who were close to him and who might be witnesses against him at trial.
The prosecutors said Epstein wired $250,000 to one of his employees and $100,000 to a second person. Both were identified in the government’s memorandum as possible co-conspirators.
The payments and their timing, the prosecutors wrote, suggests Epstein was trying to “influence co-conspirators” who might provide information against him in light of the allegations in the Miami Herald series.
Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday when his private jet landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey after a flight from Paris. He was charged with sex-trafficking and conspiracy in an indictment unsealed Monday by the office of Geoffrey S. Berman, the US attorney in Manhattan.
The indictment said that between 2002 and 2005, Epstein and his employees paid dozens of underage girls to engage in sex acts with him at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida.
Epstein is also accused in the indictment of encouraging some of his victims to recruit other underage girls for him to abuse. Prosecutors said he paid his “victim-recruiters” hundreds of dollars for each girl they brought him. “In so doing, Epstein maintained a steady supply of new victims to exploit,” the indictment said.
On Thursday, Epstein asked a judge to allow him to remain free on bond as he awaited trial. He pledged to put up his $56 million Manhattan mansion and his private jet as collateral.
He also proposed he be allowed to remain under house arrest in the mansion, offering to pay for around-the-clock security guards to ensure he did not flee. He said he would wear an ankle bracelet that monitors his location, surrender his passport and ground his jet.