A decade before sex abuse claims against accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein first came to light, the math-teacher-turned-wealthy financier posed as a Victoria’s Secret talent scout to try and “manhandle” a California model by luring her to a Santa Monica hotel room, according to a police report reviewed by The New York Times.
“His weapons were his hands,” the model, Alicia Arden, told the Times of the 1997 encounter, one of the earliest documented allegations against Epstein. Arden was 27 at the time of the alleged attack.
Another model—Italian glamazon Elisabetta Tai—has made similar allegations that Epstein posed as a Victoria’s Secret recruiter and tried to grope her.
Arden’s allegations raise disturbing new questions about what some describe as Epstein's “total control” over Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire businessman and CEO of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret.
Two former executives of the company told the Times alarm bells went off when it was learned that Epstein was attempting to get involved in recruiting lingerie models for Victoria’s Secret in the 1990s. Wexner is said to have been informed of the situation and promised to take care of it, they said, but he didn’t cut ties with Epstein until years later.
And in the meantime, they said, he surrendered almost total control to Epstein, shocking those closest to him, who said they were mostly isolated from Wexner once Epstein came along.
Perhaps the most drastic step of all came in 1991, when Wexner signed a power of attorney giving Epstein “full power and authority to do and perform every act necessary.”
Epstein had control of Wexner’s financial affairs for the next 16 years, and he managed to scoop up assets previously owned by Wexner or his companies during that period, including a New York mansion for which there are no publicly filed documents showing the purchase, according to the Times. Epstein also went on to take on leadership positions in two of Wexner’s foundations.
Epstein’s alleged sexual misconduct continued throughout this time, with one woman, Maria Farmer, accusing him of a sexual assault at Wexner's own mansion in 1996, around the same time that L Brands executives had become suspicious of Epstein's attempts to worm his way into recruiting for Victoria’s Secret models.
Arden filed a police report about Epstein allegedly groping her less than a year after Farmer accused him of rape. In light of the 2008 charges against him for solicitation of prostitution from a minor and the federal sex trafficking charges leveled against him earlier this month, Arden questioned if his ties to Wexner had enabled him to prey on young women.
“Why would someone that powerful and successful befriend someone like Jeffrey Epstein?” she was quoted as saying.