Billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein — a man well-known for his high-profile connections in the business and political worlds — has been accused of sex-trafficking girls as young as 14, PEOPLE confirms.
According to a federal indictment unsealed on Monday, Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes.” The alleged incidents occurred in several locations, including Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. The indictment alleges Epstein paid some victims to recruit additional victims.
The indictment alleges that Epstein would begin his illegal sexual encounters with a “massage” before he would “escalate the nature and scope of physical contact with his victim.”
Epstein, 66, was arrested on Saturday after his private jet arrived from France, USA Today reports.
Epstein is charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. He faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if convicted. According to court records filed in Manhattan Federal Court, some of the alleged victims were as young as 14 at the time of the alleged abuse. It is unclear how many victims have come forward.
This is not the first time that Epstein has faced sex charges. In 2008, he pleaded guilty in Florida to soliciting a person under 18 for prostitution. PEOPLE confirms he was sentenced to 13 months in jail, although he served much of the time in work release at his office in Palm Beach. He was required to register as a sex offender.
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In a hearing on Monday, a prosecutor told the judge that several people have contacted the US Attorney’s office to allege they were victims of Epstein. According to CNN, the prosecutor also told the judge that Epstein has refused to answer questions about his wealth or assets.
But Epstein’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, told the judge that the indictment is just a rehash of the 2008 Florida investigation — and that there is no new information in the latest documents. “To us, this indictment is essentially a do-over,” Wiengarten told the court. “This is the very stuff that was investigated by the feds in Florida.”
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He will be detained until a hearing on Thursday.