Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Millionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to New Mexico go beyond owning a southern Santa Fe County ranch where he reportedly had designs to impregnate women in order to “seed” the human race with his DNA.
Epstein, who last month committed suicide in a New York jail cell while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking underage girls, was also a contributor to the Santa Fe Institute, a renowned complexity science research and education center located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where such literary luminaries as Cormac McCarthy and the late Sam Shepard have maintained offices.
Over the years, Epstein or one of his many foundations contributed a total of $275,000 to SFI, including a $25,000 donation in 2010, two years after he pleaded guilty to solicitation of prostitution charges in Florida in a deal with federal prosecutors.
Epstein, who, in addition to his obsession for pretty girls and young women, had a fascination with abstract concepts and liked to associate with some of the brightest minds in the world, including theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and molecular engineer George Church.
He was also friendly with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, a professor at the University of New Mexico in the 1990s and early 2000s, and a co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute.
In his 1994 book “The Quark and the Jaguar, Adventures in the Simple and the Complex,” which explored the connections between the laws of physics and the natural world, Gell-Mann thanked Epstein for his donations to SFI in support of his work.
A recent New York Times report says that Gell-Mann, who died in Santa Fe in May, was among Epstein’s guests at dinners and scientific conferences.
The Times article cited two scientists and a financial adviser as saying that starting in the early 2000s, Epstein told multiple scientists and businessmen about his “ambitions to use the New Mexico ranch as a base where women would be inseminated with his sperm and would give birth to his babies.”
An SFI brochure hails the institute as “the first research organization dedicated to the science of complexity” and the preeminent one, having inspired dozens of other centers focused on studying complex systems.
“SFI scientists use mathematical and computational approaches to search for deep similarities between complex systems, such as proteins in cells, people in cities and species in ecosystems,” it says. “Through meetings, schools, media and an annual festival, SFI seeks to diffuse our discoveries, models and metaphors to people around the world.”
Given the proximity of Epstein’s ranch to the Santa Fe Institute, about 50 miles away, it would seem logical that Epstein visited the Santa Fe Institute at some point. But that hasn’t been verified.
“If he ever came up to SFI, that would have been earlier,” Jenna Marshall, a spokeswoman for Santa Fe Institute, said last week.
By “earlier,” she meant before Epstein’s guilty plea in 2008. She added that the person best suited to answer that question, Gell-Mann, is no longer alive.
Donating the $25,000
Marshall says the Santa Fe Institute is trying to determine what to do about the $25,000 it received from an Epstein foundation in 2010. The money has already been spent, she said, so SFI is looking to contribute an equivalent amount to an appropriate recipient.
“Currently, leadership is still discussing how best to make a donation of the $25,000,” she said, adding that there are legal complications when one nonprofit 501(c)(3) group like SFI contributes money to another nonprofit. “It’s not as easy as writing a check.”
Asked who in leadership would make the decision, Marshall said it would be the SFI president since 2015, David Krakauer, vice president Jennifer Dunne and the SFI board of directors. She said there was no timeline as to when the donation would be made.
Santa Fe Institute appears to have been forthcoming about the contributions Epstein or his foundations made to SFI.
SFI acknowledged in a statement to news organizations in July when questions were raised about Epstein’s contributions that it had received $250,000 in donations “from sources related to Jeffrey Epstein” prior to his conviction in 2007 and then the additional $25,000 in 2010 after Epstein had served his jail sentence.
That donation is reflected in SFI’s 2010 annual report, which lists Epstein among those who donated between $25,000 and $99,999 that year.
The statement from SFI says that the 2010 contribution “prompted our leadership to decide not to accept any additional funds from Mr. Epstein or related sources. This decision was made above and beyond our existing policy that no donor will ever have any say over the substance or direction of SFI research.”
SFI’s Marshall said “related sources” that gave to SFI refers to Epstein’s many foundations. Among his foundations were the J. Epstein VI Foundation – “VI” standing for Virgin Islands, where the Epstein owned a private island – Epstein Interests, Enhanced Education and Gratitude America.
Publicly available tax records for SFI don’t show specific donors that contributed to the institute.
SFI board member’s connection
Another renowned scientist with connections to SFI could have knowledge of Epstein’s past relationship with the institute.
Seth Lloyd, professor of mechanical engineering and engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and physics director at MIT’s Center for Extreme Quantum Information Theory, has ties to Gell-Mann, SFI and Epstein.
According to his biographical sketch on the MIT Department of Physics website, Lloyd worked with Gell-Mann on applications of information to quantum-mechanical systems while a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He was also a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Nonlinear Systems at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His bio also mentions that Lloyd has been an adjunct faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute since 1988.
Lloyd is currently an SFI external professor and remains a member of the institute’s science board.
Lloyd, who did not return messages from the Journal last week sent via phone and email, was friendly with Epstein, so much so that he visited Epstein while he was serving an 18-month sentence for soliciting prostitutes in Florida in 2008 and 2009 – a sentence that has been criticized as being exceedingly light. It was executed as part of a plea deal by Miami-based U.S. District Attorney Alexander Acosta, who went on to become President Trump’s labor secretary, but resigned in July amid criticism over the Epstein case.
Lloyd came to regret the relationship with Epstein and the money he took from him to help fund his research. Last month, he posted an apology addressed to “Jeffrey Epstein’s victims” on medium.com, an online publishing platform.
In it, he says he met Epstein at a dinner for scientists and their supporters in 2004. The relationship grew over the next few years, and he and Epstein would discuss scientific questions when Epstein visited Harvard University in Boston. One of Epstein’s foundations gave Lloyd a grant to support his research.
“When I learned of Mr. Epstein’s arrest and subsequent conviction, I was deeply disturbed,” Lloyd wrote. “I believed, at the time, that I was doing a good deed. Mr. Epstein expressed remorse for his actions and assured me that he would not re-offend.”
After Epstein served his sentence, Lloyd said he resumed discussions with Epstein, accepted two more grants from Epstein’s foundation in 2012 and 2014, and continued to acknowledge Epstein’s support in scientific papers he wrote, all of which Lloyd described as “professional, as well as moral failings.”
“By continuing to participate in discussions he had with me and other scientists, and by accepting his donations, I helped Mr. Epstein protect his reputation, and I disempowered his victims. I should have focused on them instead of him,” he wrote, adding that by not listening to the victims, “I participated in a system of privilege and entitlement that protected a powerful abuser and that failed you. I apologize to you and I ask for your forgiveness.”
Lloyd went on to say that he had “committed financial resources to aid you and other survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking, and will work assiduously to help make your voices heard.”
A resignation at MIT
Lloyd remains at MIT, but a colleague was forced to step down earlier this month after the New Yorker magazine reported that he concealed donations from Epstein after Epstein was disqualified as a donor following his conviction. The contributions were instead listed as coming from an “anonymous” source.
Joichi Ito, who was director of MIT’s Media Lab, accepted contributions from Epstein’s foundations from 2013 to 2017, according to MIT. The New Yorker piece says that Ito accepted $525,000 from Epstein’s foundations for the labs, and another $1.2 million for other investments Ito held personally. Other reports suggest that Epstein had contributed about $800,000 to MIT over a 20-year period.
On Thursday, MIT President L. Rafael Reif published a letter addressed to the MIT community that said Ito sought the money for general research purposes.
“Because the members of my team involved believed it was important that Epstein not use gifts to MIT for publicity or to enhance his own reputation, they asked Joi to agree to make clear to Epstein that he could not put his name on them publicly. These guidelines were provided to, and apparently followed by, the Media Lab,” Reif wrote.
The letter also mentions Lloyd, but only in the context that a contribution to Lloyd from Epstein in 2012 was believed to be the first gift received at MIT after Epstein’s conviction.
The Washington Post reported that Reif previously promised that MIT would give to a charity benefiting Epstein’s victims or other victims of sexual abuse an amount of money equal to what Epstein had contributed to the institution.