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Billionaire in sex crime case has NM ties

Jeffrey Epstein, center, is shown in custody in West Palm Beach, Florida in July 2008. The wealthy financier and convicted sex offender has been arrested in New York on sex trafficking charges. Two law enforcement officials said Epstein was taken into federal custody Saturday, July 6, 2019, on charges involving sex-trafficking allegations that date to the 2000s. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via AP, File)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Wealthy hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, arrested anew over the weekend in New York for sex trafficking and conspiracy, also has been accused of sex crimes at his New Mexico mansion south of Santa Fe.

He’s never faced criminal charges here, despite allegations of sexual misconduct at his ranch near Stanley that have emerged in civil litigation.

At least three embarrassed New Mexico politicians have returned donations from Epstein that showed up in their campaign accounts over the years, and news reports say investigations of Epstein reached into New Mexico.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque on Monday provided a brief statement in response to a Journal inquiry on whether the office has considered filing any charges against Epstein for alleged crimes in New Mexico.

“I understand your interest in Mr. Epstein and his connections to New Mexico,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Sullivan via email. “He has not been charged federally in our district. Consistent with DOJ (Department of Justice) policy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office cannot confirm, deny, or otherwise comment on any possible ongoing investigations.”

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney is handling the New York case against Epstein. The new charges accuse Epstein of abusing dozens of underage girls as young as 14. It alleges crimes in New York and Florida but doesn’t mention New Mexico.

Epstein’s Saturday arrest came amid increased #MeToo-era scrutiny of a 2008 non-prosecution agreement in Florida, reached without consultation with any alleged victims, that allowed Epstein to maintain his jet-set lifestyle that includes a Bentley and homes in Paris and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he owns an island, as well as his Zorro Ranch in southern Santa Fe County.

Under the once-secret deal – overseen by Alexander Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time and is now Labor secretary in the Trump administration – Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He avoided a possible life sentence and served 13 months in jail, during which he was allowed out to go to his office during the day.

President Donald Trump, left, and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta listen during a meeting of the President’s National Council of the American Worker in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington in September 2018. The arrest of billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein on child sex trafficking charges is raising new questions about the future of Acosta as well as Epstein’s relationships with several major political figures, including President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The plea deal has received increased attention and more scrutiny since last year after reporting by the Miami Herald that included new details and accounts from alleged victims of Epstein. Acosta has defended the plea deal with Epstein as appropriate, though the White House said in February that it was looking into his handling of the case.

Even before the Herald’s series of reports, Epstein’s case had continued to generate news over the years as some of the women allegedly recruited as young sex slaves filed lawsuits against him.

2015 court filing

In a 2015 court filing reported on by the Journal, plaintiffs’ lawyers maintained that a woman identified as Jane Doe No. 3, said to have been coerced into Epstein’s camp when she was 15 years old, was frequently sexually abused by Epstein “not only in West Palm Beach (Florida), but also in New York, New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, in international airspace on … Epstein’s private planes, and elsewhere.”

The same filing also alleged that Jane Doe No. 3 was forced by Epstein to have sex with famous attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz numerous times, including in New Mexico.

The filing didn’t say specifically where in New Mexico the alleged sexual assaults took place, but Dershowitz went on NBC’s “Today” show to denounce the allegations and said that Jane Doe No. 3 accused him of having sex with her at Epstein’s “ranch in New Mexico.”

The allegations are “totally false and made up,” he said. Dershowitz said he’d only been at the ranch once for about an hour with friends and his wife and daughter. Epstein wasn’t present “and there were no girls around,” Dershowitz said. Epstein’s New Mexico ranch is located near Stanley and was purchased from the family of former Gov. Bruce King, who died 2009.

In 2016, Dershowitz and lawyers for the woman who made the accusations issued a joint statement on withdrawal of the allegations. The statement said Dershowitz had produced travel and other records showing he couldn’t have been present when the alleged misconduct occurred.

According to the Miami Herald, FBI and court records show that leading up to his 2008 plea deal over alleged crimes at his Florida mansion, Epstein was “also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean.”

The records show the FBI “was interviewing witnesses and victims “from across the United States” and the investigations “stretched from Florida to New York and New Mexico,” the Herald reported.

The Daily Beast reported recently that in a 2019 affidavit, one of Epstein’s accusers claims Epstein and an associate molested her 15-year-old sister at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch.

Political donations

Epstein made news in New Mexico when he twice attempted to contribute to the political campaigns of Gary King, Bruce King’s son, a former attorney general and candidate for governor. King returned the money.

King received $15,000 from Epstein in 2006 when King first ran for attorney general and $35,000 from companies connected to Epstein for his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2014.

Also in 2006, Epstein gave $50,000 to the re-election campaign of then-Gov. Bill Richardson.

Richardson said then he’d give the money he received from an Epstein-affiliated company, Zorro Trust, to local charities. Epstein also gave $10,000 to Jim Baca’s 2006 campaign for state land commissioner. Baca also gave the Epstein money to charities.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in New York, Monday, July 8, 2019. Federal prosecutors announced sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Court documents unsealed Monday show Epstein is charged with creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

An address book of Epstein’s ended up in court in Florida and was published in full by Gawker in 2015. The pages show names and redacted phone numbers or email addresses for numerous celebrities and political figures, from rock star Courtney Love to Donald Trump and Bill Clinton.

On a couple of pages that appear to be dedicated to New Mexico are listings for Richardson, Bruce King, King’s niece and former state Rep. Rhonda King and the Santa Fe Institute, the world-renowned theoretical research institute. There are also about 15 listings under the heading “massage” with first names such as Sabrina, Rachel and Linda and phone numbers redacted after their 505 area codes.

Epstein’s Zorro Ranch has been reported to be 7,500 acres or 10,000 acres. Santa Fe County Assessor Gus Martinez said Monday that the ranch’s most recent assessment indicates a market value of $12.2 million, but that because part of the ranch gets a break for agricultural uses such as running cattle, the actual value could be higher.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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