Prosecutors unsealed Monday charges against billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein alleging he abused dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, and conspired to commit sex trafficking.
The federal charges were announced after Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday at a New Jersey airport.
The recently unsealed indictment alleges he lured his victims into engaging in sex acts in exchange for promises of money from 2002 to 2005. Prosecutors allege that Epstein developed a network of employees and associated to ensure he had a "steady supply" of minors to abuse, and paid several of the victims to recruit other underage girls.
He allegedly committed the crimes at his Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida properties where Epstein would lure girls to his homes under the guise of providing him with massages in exchange for money. Those massages would become sexual and would be paid of in hundreds of dollars in cash for each encounter, according to prosecutors.
"Epstein exploited girls who were vulnerable to abuse, enticed them with cash payments, and escalated his conduct to include sex acts, often occurring at his residence on the Upper East Side of Manhattan," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
"While the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, the victims – then children and now young women – are no less entitled to their day in court," he added.
Epstein is facing one count of sex trafficking minors, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, and another county of sex trafficking of minors conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
The charges mark the second time prosecutors sought to hold Epstein to account for his alleged crimes.
He was formerly let off with a significantly lighter sentence in a secret deal that saw him serve about a year in prison and had him register as a sex offender. He served most of his term in work release.
He was able to get out of a possible life sentence in that case, which involved soliciting a minor for prostitution.
Epstein is being held in a federal lock-up in Manhattan./aa