The web of shell companies Jeffrey Epstein employed to enshroud his fortune played another, sinister role for the financier, forming the hidden foundation of a “brazen and powerful organization” he used to molest and exploit girls and young women, according to three new civil lawsuits.
The claims against his $578 million estate, its executors and the companies themselves — made one day after Epstein’s will became public — add new allegations to those he faced when he committed suicide in jail on Aug. 10. They seek unspecified damages for medical and psychological expenses, humiliation, trauma and other injuries suffered as recently as 2017, far beyond the time period laid out in the criminal case.
Epstein, 66, died two days after writing his will. According to the suits, two of the plaintiffs were 17 at the time the alleged assaults began and one was 20. His death is no impediment to their pursuit of civil claims.
“They’re still in a good position,” said Susan Gary, a law professor at the University of Oregon. The challenge “is proving as required by law that he injured them and they should get benefits for their injury.”
The defendants include the executors, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, lawyers who were directors for a nonprofit Epstein had in the U.S. Virgin Islands called Gratitude America. Efforts to reach Indyke and Kahn were unsuccessful.
Among the companies named in all three suits are one that owned Epstein’s Manhattan mansion until 2011; his money-management firm, Financial Trust Co.; and HBRK Associates Inc., which allegedly helped arrange travel for Epstein’s accusers between New York and Florida. A Richard Kahn was listed as the registered agent for HBRK in New York state corporate filings in 2008.
Two of the complaints name as a defendant the company that once owned Little St. James, the smaller of Epstein’s private islands in the Caribbean. Little St. James was one of the locations from which Epstein ran a “complex commercial sex trafficking and abuse ring,” according to the lawsuits.
He relied on associates and employees to orchestrate illicit encounters with girls and young women, the suits say, directing “a complex system of individuals” that worked “in concert and at his direction, for the purpose of harming teenage girls through sexual exploitation, abuse and trafficking.”
This team included “chefs, butlers, receptionists, schedulers, secretaries, flight attendants, pilots, housekeepers, maids, sex recruiters, drivers and other staff members,” according to the suits.
Epstein — who faced federal charges in New York that could have imprisoned him for 45 years — had been sued numerous times.
After he served 13 months in jail in Palm Beach following a guilty plea in 2008 to state charges including soliciting prostitution from a minor, he settled more than two dozen suits by women. They claimed he lured them when they were teenagers to his mansion there, coerced them into sex, paid them and asked them to recruit others.
Three of those cases, filed by clients of Brad Edwards, settled for a total of $5.5 million. Edwards is the lawyer for the women who filed the complaints Tuesday in federal court in New York. The plaintiffs aren’t named because of the “sensitive sexual nature” of the cases, the suits say.
Late Tuesday, Edwards submitted arguments on behalf of VE, another client who last week sued Epstein’s estate and three of the same companies targeted by the latest suits, asking the court to allow her to proceed anonymously.
“Epstein’s vast wealth and far reaching connections make it clear that retaliation could be employed against individuals pursuing claims against the estate” and could deter witnesses, according to the filing. VE’s anonymity will serve society as well, which “has an interest in eradicating the predatory practices of powerful men against vulnerable, susceptible women.”
One of the them, identified as Katlyn Doe, says Epstein tricked her into having sex with him while he was on work release from the Palm Beach jail — he was allowed to leave to go to a nearby office six days a week — and manipulated her into a phony marriage.
She says she agreed to come to Florida after he promised her a job at his office there, and that HBRK coordinated her travel. Instead, Epstein forced her to “engage in sexual encounters” with him and another young female. The office was the headquarters of Epstein’s Florida Science Foundation, which is a defendant in her suit.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff is conducting an internal investigation into the conditions of Epstein’s sentence. He served 13 months of an 18-month term as part of a secretive deal that involved a federal non-prosecution agreement negotiated by former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta. He was forced to resign last month as U.S. Secretary of Labor amid harsh criticism of that deal, which the Miami Herald wrote about in a 2018 series called Perversion of Justice.
In her lawsuit, Katlyn Doe says that people around Epstein would often remind her of his “extraordinary power to reward and punish.” She was 17 when she first met him, she says, suffering from an eating disorder and an unspecified medical condition that required surgery.
Epstein promised to give her $20,000 for an operation, coming through with $10,000 when she agreed to marry an Epstein associate who was seeking U.S. residency, the suit says. Epstein said he would hand over the rest when the marriage ended but didn’t do so after the 2017 divorce, according to the suit. Epstein continued to sexually abuse Katlyn Doe until 2017, the suit says.
Plaintiff Lisa Doe claims she was 17 and an aspiring dancer when she met Epstein in 2002. He told her he was “close personal friends with some of the most influential names in dance” and would help her if she taught a dance-based exercise class at the home of a wealthy New York man, the suit says. Epstein instead coerced her into sexual encounters and derailed her career dreams, the suit says.
She says he “controlled every aspect” of her life and she feared crossing him.
In her suit, plaintiff Priscilla Doe says she was 20 when an Epstein “recruiter” asked if she wanted to visit his mansion to give him a massage in 2006. An associate of his taught her the “exact way” he liked to receive oral sex and Epstein “forced himself on her and took her virginity,” according to the complaint. While Epstein was receiving massages, the suit says, he took calls from four people, referred to in the suit as “Important Business Person” 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The plaintiff says she was forced to “engage in commercial sex” on each of more than 20 trips to the Virgin Islands between 2006 and 2012.
Epstein was assisted by people around him, the suits say repeatedly. “Each of the employees and associates were paid through companies believed to have been funded by Jeffrey Epstein and, regardless of such funding, were disciples of Jeffrey Epstein, constantly informing plaintiff and other victims of Jeffrey Epstein’s power and ability to improve or destroy a victim’s life depending on her level of cooperation.”