(NEW YORK) — Financier Jeffrey Epstein, a registered sex offender, was arrested on Saturday for alleged sex trafficking of minor girls in Florida and New York, multiple sources tell ABC News.
Epstein’s arrest was first reported by The Daily Beast.
Sources tell ABC News that Epstein was taken into custody Saturday at Teterboro Airport in Bergen County, New Jersey, in an undercover operation.
A team of law enforcement officers from the FBI and the New York Police Department arrested Epstein, who was returning to the United States from France, according to sources. Authorities also raided Epstein’s New York City home Saturday night and into early Sunday.
The precise charges Epstein will face are unclear, but the sources tell ABC News that they are likely to include conspiracy and sex trafficking of minor girls in New York and Florida. At least some of the charges, sources tell ABC News, involve allegations dating back more than a decade.
The indictment against Epstein remains under seal until a hearing in federal court in Manhattan scheduled for Monday, the sources say.
A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment.
Martin Weinberg, an attorney for Epstein, declined to comment when reached by email on Sunday.
Epstein was first investigated beginning in 2005 for alleged sex crimes against minor girls by both local and federal authorities in Florida. The core allegations revolved around an alleged scheme to recruit underage girls to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion for massages that, in many cases, led to sexual contact, according to court records and law enforcement documents.
Federal authorities ultimately identified more than three dozen girls who had been alleged victims of Epstein, but instead of pursuing a prosecution, entered into a once-secret non-prosecution agreement with Epstein in 2007 that ended the federal investigation and spared him a potentially lengthy prison sentence.
The deal with Epstein was negotiated and approved by Alexander Acosta, then the United States attorney in Miami, who now serves in President Donald Trump’s cabinet as the secretary of labor.
Attorney Stan Pottinger, of Edwards Pottinger LLC, said that his law partner, Brad Edwards, who represents several alleged victims of Epstein, learned of the arrest this weekend when one of Edwards’ clients called to say that the FBI had informed her of the developments.
“We have not seen the indictment nor do we know the basis for the arrest,” Pottinger told ABC News late Saturday. “We expect to know more next week after we understand there will be an arraignment.”
As a condition of the deal with federal authorities, Epstein ultimately pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting and procuring a person under age 18 for prostitution, but served just 13 months of an 18-month sentence in a private wing of a county jail. He was also granted liberal work-release privileges that allowed him to spend up to 16 hours a day at his office.
In 2008, two of Epstein’s alleged victims filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Justice, alleging that the deal with Epstein had been reached in violation of the Crimes Victims’ Rights Act, which requires that the government confer with victims and keep them informed of developments in their cases.
Courtney Wild, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, identified as Jane Doe #1 in the long-running lawsuit against the Justice Department, said she was “overwhelmed” by reports of the arrest. Wild has been interviewed by ABC News recently, and has agreed to have her name used publicly.
“Finally!” she said of the arrest. “Knowing he’s off the streets and so many girls who would be in danger are now safe makes me so happy.”
Another one of the Epstein’s alleged victims, Michelle Licata, said it’s “about time someone started picking up on what he has been doing.”
Licata, who also consented to having her name used, accused Epstein of sexually abusing her when she was 16 years old during a massage at his home in 2005.
“I’m so relieved to know that he’s behind bars,” Licata, who spoke to authorities during the initial police investigation, told ABC News. “That’s exactly where he needs to be.”
Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the government’s deal with Epstein did, in fact, violate the rights of Epstein’s victims. The court is now considering the possible remedies for the violation of the law.
“If today’s report is true, it only proves that the Epstein should have been charged by federal prosecutors twelve years ago in Florida,” Paul Cassell, co-counsel along with Edwards for victims Jane Doe 1 and 2 in the case challenging the DOJ over the non-prosecution agreement with Epstein, said in a statement. “With his money, Epstein was able to buy more than a decade of delay in facing justice – but fortunately he wasn’t able to postpone justice forever.”
“While New York prosecutors are apparently seeking to hold Epstein accountable, the Jane Does’ fight will continue to force federal prosecutors in Florida to do the same thing,” Cassell added.
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