- Prominent billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy for crimes involving victims allegedly as young as 13.
- By 2008, federal prosecutors had identified 36 minors that Epstein had abused, and the Miami Herald later reported that they had independently identified nearly 80 women who had been victims of Epstein.
- He faced life in prison, but was given only 13 only months in jail after his lawyers made a deal with then-prosecutor Alexander Acosta, who is now the Secretary of Labor, and who many are calling on to resign in wake of the new charges.
- Epstein also has ties to prominent political circles, like those of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, causing many to wonder if they knew about the crimes Epstein committed.
Billionaire hedge-fund manager and financier Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy by federal prosecutors, according to an indictment that was unsealed Monday.
Epstein was arrested on Saturday and held in custody in New York, where he stood trial on Monday.
According to the indictment, Epstein, “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.”
From 2002 to 2005, Epstein “enticed and recruited” minors to “engage in sex acts with him, after which he would give the victims hundreds of dollars in cash,” the indictment stated. “Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein.”
“[The victims] were as young as 14 years old at the time they were abused by Jeffrey Epstein,” it continued. “Epstein intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18, including because, in some instances, minor victims expressly told him their age.”
The indictment also said that Epstein “worked and conspired with others, including employees and associates who facilitated his conduct by, among other things, contacting victims and scheduling their sexual encounters with Epstein.”
If found guilty, Epstein could face up to 45 years in prison. During his court appearance on Monday, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
However, shortly after, the Justice Department released a memo saying that federal agents had raided Epstein’s New York mansion and found “At least hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of sexually suggestive photographs of fully- or partially nude females.”
“Some of the nude or partially-nude photographs appear to be of underage girls, including at least one girl who, according to her counsel, was underage at the time the relevant photographs were taken,” the memo continued.
After the news of Epstein’s arrest broke, it was reported that prosecutors said several women came forward with complaints, including accusers who had not previously spoken to the government about their cases.
Epstein is no stranger to these serious accusations. For years, Epstein has been accused of preying on minors both in court cases and in police complaints.
An investigation into his misconduct was first opened in 2005 after the parents of an accuser in Florida went to the police.
That investigation grew rapidly. By 2008, federal prosecutors had identified 36 underage victims, according to documents reviewed by the Miami Herald.
The Herald reported that investigators found evidence of abuse dating back to 2001, and said that Epstein had abused girls as young as 13. The Herald also identified about 80 women who said they were sexually abused by Epstein and ultimately located about 60 of those women.
Federal prosecutors in Miami prepared a huge 53-page federal indictment against Epstein. If found guilty, he could have faced life in prison.
Then in 2008, prosecutors negotiated a last-minute secret deal with Epstein’s lawyers.
Under that deal, Epstein pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges and was sentenced to only 13 months in jail. However, while in jail, he was given work-release privileges which allowed him to leave six days a week for 12 hours a day.
The deal also protected any co-conspirators, and notably, the prosecutors did not tell the victims they were representing about the deal they made until after it was approved.
After the deal was made public, it was met with significant backlash. Many accused the Justice Department of mishandling the case, and in turn, the department has faced litigation from Epstein’s accusers over the years.
In February, the Justice Department finally opened its own internal review into the decision.
Connections to Powerful People
Since the 2008 deal, some have claimed that Epstein was able to get off so easy because he is a powerful and influential man, and also because he prides himself on having a long list of even more powerful and influential friends.
Among other high-profile and powerful people, Epstein’s circle of friends included former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump.
In a statement, Clinton’s office said that he had flown on Epstein’s private plane several times for work involving the Clinton Foundation after his term as president.
The statement also said that the former president “knows nothing” about the crimes Epstein has been accused of.
President Trump also has ties to Epstein that go far back, with reports of Trump attending parties hosted by Epstein, and Epstein visiting Mar-A-Lago.
In 2002, Trump spoke to New York Magazine about Epstein.
“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with,” Trump said. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
Additionally, in 2016, Trump was sued by a girl who claimed Trump raped her in 1994 when she was 13 at a party hosted by Epstein. The lawsuit has since been dropped, as the woman said she was receiving threats.
However, in 2017, an attorney for the Trump Organization, said that Trump “had no relationship with Mr. Epstein and had no knowledge whatsoever of his conduct.”
Connections to Others in Trump Administration
Beyond Trump himself, other officials in the administration have also been linked to Epstein.
On Monday, Attorney General William Barr said he was going to recuse himself from Epstein’s sex trafficking case, citing the fact that he had previously worked at a law firm Epstein has used in the past.
However, on Tuesday morning, Barr decided not to recuse himself from the case, though he will still be recused from department’s review of the 2008 plea deal Epstein reached with prosecutors.
That is not where the complications for the Trump administration end. The prosecutor that agreed to the controversial deal was Alexander Acosta, who is now Trump’s Labor Secretary.
Acosta responded to the situation in a tweet on Tuesday, and said that he was “pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.”
Acosta’s tweet followed numerous remarks from top Democrats calling for him to resign. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for Acosta to step down in a tweet on Monday.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to fire Acosta if he does not resign.
“I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign,” Schumer said. “It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta’s ability to lead the Department of Labor. If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him.”
Others in the Republican party chimed in as well. On Monday, Senator Ted Cruz responded to a tweet posted by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Tapper retweeted a Miami Herald article that named Acosta and others who they said enabled Epstein. In his tweet, Tapper indicated that he hoped Acosta and the others would go down with Epstein.
Cruz responded to the tweet, writing, “Fully agree.”
When asked by a Fox News anchor if he thought Acosta should resign, Cruz did not outright answer the question.
“I’m concerned about the allegations, but the Department of Justice has an ongoing investigation,” he said. “I think we should find out what happened, I think we should have imposed the toughest penalty we could have, based on the evidence, and I think we need to inquire if we did that.”
Epstein is due back in court on Thursday. On Monday, Epstein’s lawyer, Reid Weingarten, said in a statement that the accusations had been settled in 2008.
“To us this indictment is essentially a do-over,” Weingarten said. “This is old stuff. This is ancient stuff.”
However, U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, who is prosecuting the case, said the agreement from 2008 only is only binding in the Southern District of Florida.
See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (The New York Times) (The Daily Beast)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.