By David Ingram
(Reuters) - A modeling agency owner is suing U.S. financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, claiming that Epstein's high-profile legal troubles have unfairly embroiled him and damaged his agency's reputation.
Jean-Luc Brunel, the owner of modeling agency MC2, is seeking unspecified damages from Epstein. He says he has known Epstein for years and claims Epstein helped him finance his modeling business. Brunel's lawsuit was filed in January in a Dade County, Florida, court but has received little notice.
A lawyer for Epstein declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Epstein, 62, spent 13 months in a Florida jail after pleading guilty in 2008 to procuring an underage girl for prostitution.
Brunel's suit follows a tabloid frenzy that started in December after lawyers for four women alleged in court papers that Epstein forced one of the women, as an underage girl, to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew, prominent U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and other men, including Brunel.
In that lawsuit, filed in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, the lawyers also alleged that Brunel regularly used his position as a modeling scout to lure young girls for sex.
Brunel, Prince Andrew, and Dershowitz have denied the allegations. A lawyer for Epstein has called them old and discredited.
A native of France who lives in Florida, Brunel said in his lawsuit that Epstein's behavior and the intense media scrutiny surrounding it have caused talent scouts and fashion agencies such as Elite Model Management to avoid doing business with Brunel.
"Plaintiff Brunel's agency MC2 has lost millions of dollars in revenue since the media revealed that Plaintiffs and Epstein were associated," the lawsuit says. It seeks compensation for loss of business and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Elite Model Management did not return a call and an email requesting comment.
A lawyer for Brunel declined to discuss the strategy behind the lawsuit and declined to elaborate on Brunel's claims that Epstein directly caused the alleged loss of business.
(Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Amy Stevens and Martin Howell)