Why the Jeffrey Epstein Investigation Is Not Over

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    Mr. Epstein is dead, but prosecutors will focus on those who may have helped him in a sex-trafficking ring. Accusers still plan to pursue lawsuits.

    Jeffrey Epstein is dead. But the criminal investigation that led to the sex-trafficking charges against him is not.Federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents who built the case against Mr. Epstein will turn their attention to people whom his accusers have said participated in a scheme that dates back more than a decade and involved the sexual exploitation of dozens of underage girls.That could include a circle of close associates whom accusers said helped recruit, train and coerce them into catering to Mr. Epstein, a wealthy financier.

    Soon after Mr. Epstein was found dead of an apparent suicide in a federal jail on Saturday, Geoffrey S. Berman, the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said his office’s investigation would continue, and pointedly mentioned that the government’s indictment against Mr. Epstein included a conspiracy charge.

    Daniel C. Richman, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who now teaches criminal law at Columbia University, said that meant the government already had identified additional targets despite the death of Mr. Epstein. “Its use of conspiracy charges suggests it already has some living people in its sights,” Mr. Richman said.

    Manhattan federal prosecutors have not charged or named anyone as a co-conspirator. But in 2007, a non-prosecution agreement between Mr. Epstein and federal officials in Florida said that prosecutors would not charge four women it identified as “potential co-conspirators.” Mr. Berman’s office has maintained that it is not bound by the Florida agreement. The stunning news of Mr. Epstein’s death prompted a swirl of new questions about its circumstances, including why jail officials removed Mr. Epstein, 66, from a suicide watch program that included daily psychiatric evaluations just days after he was found injured in his cell in what appeared to have been an earlier suicide attempt.[Read more: Before his apparent suicide, Mr. Epstein was left alone and not closely monitored.]The United States attorney general, William P. Barr, whose Justice Department oversees the federal Bureau of Prisons, ordered the F.B.I. and department’s inspector general to investigate the circumstances around Mr. Epstein’s death.

    But those circumstances also prompted outrage from his many accusers, who saw him as again eluding justice, years after escaping federal prosecution on similar charges of sexually abusing girls. He was allowed to plead guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges in Florida, and served a 13-month sentence, spending most of his days on work-release.“I never wanted him to die. I just wanted him to be held accountable for his actions,” said Michelle S. Licata, 31, who was among the dozens of girls who Palm Beach police and the F.B.I. found were recruited to give Mr. Epstein erotic massages, which included his touching her breasts while he masturbated.

    Still, many of his accusers can pursue civil claims against his vast estate, which is said to be worth more than $500 million, lawyers for some of his accusers have said. Mr. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, appeared to have the frustration of Mr. Epstein’s accusers in mind when he spoke on Saturday.“To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so,” Mr. Berman said in a statement, “let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing.”It is unclear whether others will be charged; but even before Mr. Epstein’s death, it was apparent that the investigation was expanding into his finances, with F.BI. agents and prosecutors gathering evidence from banks and others. In addition to possible sex-trafficking conspiracy charges against others, prosecutors could also seek charges of aiding and abetting Mr. Epstein or money laundering, which could lead to trials and criminal forfeiture actions. The government could try to seize assets that could be sold and used to compensate his accusers.

    Sharon Cohen Levin, a former federal prosecutor who led the Southern District’s money laundering and asset forfeiture unit, said another likely option would be for prosecutors to file a lawsuit known as a civil forfeiture action against Mr. Epstein’s properties, such as his $56 million mansion on the Upper East Side, claiming they were used to facilitate crimes.The procedure has been used to recover artwork stolen by the Nazis in World II and to return it to victims’ families, she noted. If prosecutors were to file such an action against Mr. Epstein’s property, Ms. Levin said they would likely offer a detailed narrative of how the mansion, for example, was used to further his alleged trafficking of underage victims. “The victims will lose the opportunity to face him in court, see him eye to eye and tell their story,” Ms. Levin said, “but they can still work with the government to get their story out.”Lawyers for Mr. Epstein’s accusers said the news of his death was traumatic, but did not leave them without options. David Boies, a New York lawyer who represents several of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, said his clients were surprised by the apparent suicide and unhappy that they would never be able to confront Mr. Epstein. “On the other hand, they have been through a lot and they are not going to give up, and to the extent that they can hold his estate liable and to the extent that they can hold the other people who worked with him responsible, they’re committed to trying to do that,” Mr. Boies said.

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