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Lawsuit Claims Epstein Trafficked Girls in Caribbean Until 2018

FILE - This July 9, 2019, file photo shows a portion of Jeffery Epstein's estate on Little Saint James Island, in the U. S. Virgin Islands. A lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, by prosecutors in the Virgin Islands says multimillionaire sex offender Jeffery Epstein used two private islands, including Little Saint James, in the U.S. territory to engage in a nearly two-decade-long conspiracy to traffic and abuse girls. (AP Photo/Gianfranco Gaglione, File)
FILE - This July 9, 2019, file photo shows a portion of Jeffery Epstein's estate on Little Saint James Island, in the U. S. Virgin Islands. A lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, by prosecutors in the Virgin Islands says multimillionaire sex offender Jeffery Epstein used two private islands, including Little Saint James, in the U.S. territory to engage in a nearly two-decade-long conspiracy to traffic and abuse girls. (AP Photo/Gianfranco Gaglione, File)AP/Associated Press

New evidence shows Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused and trafficked hundreds of young women and girls on his private Caribbean island, some as recently as 2018, significantly expanding the scope of his alleged conduct, a top law enforcement official said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Epstein, a wealthy financier who died by suicide in a Manhattan jail last year, was bringing girls as young as 11 and 12 to his secluded estate in the Virgin Islands, known as Little Saint James, and kept a computerized database to track the availability and movements of women and girls, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Denise George, attorney general of the Virgin Islands, broadened the dimensions of the wrongdoing in which Epstein was said to have engaged. He had been charged by Manhattan prosecutors in July with sexually exploiting dozens of women and girls in New York and Florida, but they did not point to any actions beyond 2005.

In August, Epstein hanged himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was being held awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Prison guards had not checked on him for hours on the night he died, and the circumstances surrounding his death are now the subject of at least three federal investigations.

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In the weeks before Epstein killed himself, he and his lawyers vigorously denied the criminal charges. His lawyers had previously said he had been law-abiding since his 2008 conviction in Florida for solicitation.

The suit was filed against Epstein’s estate and seeks the forfeiture of Little Saint James and Epstein’s second private island, Great Saint James, as well as the dissolution of numerous shell companies he established in the territory that officials have said acted as fronts for his sex trafficking enterprise.

As part of its policies, the government of the Virgin Islands could take any assets recovered from Epstein’s estate and consider disbursing them to women and girls who were victimized by him in the region, George said.

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The new accusations — which draw both from independent investigations by George’s office and court documents from cases across the country — argue that Epstein ran a decadeslong sex trafficking scheme that had a primary nexus in the Virgin Islands.

“Epstein clearly used the Virgin Islands and his residence in the US Virgin Islands at Little Saint James as a way to be able to conceal and to be able to expand his activity here,” George said.

The suit underscores the legal complications of reckoning with such wide-reaching crimes as those Epstein is said to have committed. George’s suit is the first filed against the estate by a government entity, but it joins a field of similar claims filed by more than a dozen women.

It remains unclear how Epstein’s assets, which are valued at about $500 million, could be allocated.

“We don’t have a long history of figuring out what to do in cases of human trafficking,” said Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, who consulted with George’s team on the case. “I think this litigation and the courts are just trying to come up with the best, imperfect solution.”

Epstein’s executor, Darren Indyke, did not respond to a request for comment.

George said she believed the case could chip away at the region’s reputation as a haven for the rich and powerful.

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“We will not remain complacent, and we will enforce our laws whatever way we can,” George said. “It doesn’t matter the social status of the person. It’s that the laws apply equally.”

The court documents said that Epstein operated with impunity for years at Little Saint James and Great Saint James, which he obtained through a straw purchaser in 2016.

As recently as July 2018, Epstein refused to permit an investigator from the Virgin Islands Department of Justice to enter Little Saint James, claiming the island’s dock was his “front door,” according to the lawsuit. The investigator was doing routine monitoring of Epstein because he was a registered sex offender.

Epstein’s victims included aspiring models from South America, according to court documents.