UPDATE 2-Epstein sought to pay off potential witnesses, U.S. prosecutors sayReuters | Washington DC | Updated: 13-07-2019 04:27 IST | Created: 13-07-2019 04:27 IST
Jailed American financier Jeffrey Epstein made payments to two potential witnesses seeking to influence them in the child sex trafficking case against him late last year, prosecutors said late on Friday. In a filing in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors said Epstein wired a total of $350,000 to the two individuals, who were not named. They said they learned of the payments through records they obtained from a financial institution, which was not identified.
Epstein's lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Epstein, 66, was arrested on July 6 at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, where he had returned on his private plane from Paris. He has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy and could face up to 45 years in prison.
According to an indictment, Epstein arranged for girls under the age of 18 to perform nude "massages" and other sex acts for him in his New York and Florida homes, and paid some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005. Epstein had faced similar charges in 2007, but negotiated a deal to avoid federal prosecution and plead guilty to a single Florida state prostitution charge.
In a court filing on Thursday, Epstein asked to be allowed to await trial under house arrest in his Manhattan mansion, offering to pay for private armed security. In Friday's filing, however, prosecutors called Epstein "unrepentant and unreformed" and said his payments to possible witnesses, along with the risk he would use his wealth to flee the country, warranted keeping him behind bars.
Prosecutors said Epstein paid $100,000 in November to a person identified in his 2007 non-prosecution agreement as a possible co-conspirator. They said he paid $250,000 in December to another person identified in the agreement as a possible co-conspirator and employee. The payments were made shortly after the Miami Herald began publishing a series of articles about Epstein, who was known for socializing with politicians and royalty.
"This course of action, and in particular its timing, suggests the defendant was attempting to further influence co-conspirators who might provide information against him in light of the recently re-emerging allegations," the prosecutors said. A hearing on Epstein's bail request is scheduled for Monday morning.