The US Virgin Islands is seeking to seize Jeffrey Epstein's private islands and other assets in a new lawsuit that alleges the disgraced financier trafficked, sexually assaulted, and held captive young women and girls at his properties in the Caribbean at an even larger scale than previously known.
Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George filed a civil complaint Wednesday against his estate; Epstein killed himself last year in jail while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges. Before he died, his will was filed in the Virgin Islands. The complaint names other shell companies associated with Epstein's activities in the US territory as defendants.
The suit alleges Epstein carried out and concealed an expansive sex trafficking operation on the secluded private island of Little St. James, where he and his associates could avoid detection and prevent the escape of young women and girls they lured with money and promises of employment.
Locals nicknamed Little St. James "Pedophile Island" because of Epstein's activities, Bloomberg reported.
According to the complaint, flight logs show that between 2001 and 2019, Epstein transported girls and young women to the Virgin Islands and then took them by helicopter or another private vessel to Little St. James. There, they were forced to engage in sexual acts, the complaint said.
In one case, a 15-year-old girl attempted to escape by swimming off the island after being forced into sexual acts with Epstein and others. When members of a search party found her, they allegedly took her passport to hold her captive.
These actions continued until as recently as 2018, when air traffic controllers and other personnel reported seeing Epstein leave his plane with girls who appeared to be between the ages of 11 and 18, the complaint said.
"The conduct described in our complaint as we note betrays the deepest principles and values of the government and the people of the Virgin Islands," George said during a press conference Wednesday. "The Virgin Islands is not and will not be a safe haven for human trafficking or sexual exploitation."
As part of the complaint, the Virgin Islands is seeking to take over all assets used to carry out the alleged sex trafficking operation, including Little St. James and Great St. James, a second island Epstein acquired in 2016, as well as any money he and his companies obtained through the enterprise.
The territory's Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act allows the government to acquire assets, impose civil penalties, and seek damages from enterprises engaged in criminal activity. Under the act, it may also disperse the assets to victims.
In the complaint, the government asked the court to award "equitable relief" from any of Epstein's "ill-gotten gains" to "protect the rights of victims and innocent persons."
According to court documents, Epstein's estate in the Virgin Islands is valued at $577 million.
George, who began the investigation into Epstein's activities in the Virgin Islands soon after she took office last April, said the government's complaint was separate from claims that victims have already filed against the financier's estate.
"With this filing, the government is exercising its authority and responsibility to enforce its laws, protect the public safety, and to send a strong message to ensure redress for the victims of crime," she said.
An executor of Epstein's estate did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment Wednesday. The executors have proposed the creation of a fund to compensate the women Epstein is accused of sexually abusing as a "voluntary, confidential, non-adversarial alternative to litigation."
But if George succeeds in her lawsuit, money could go to victims without requiring confidentiality or for them to give up their right to sue personally, she told the New York Times.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a charge of soliciting prostitution, served 13 months in jail, and was required to register as a sex offender as part of a widely criticized plea deal with federal prosecutors.
In July, Epstein was arrested on new federal charges for running a sex trafficking operation in which he allegedly sexually abused dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, in his New York and Florida homes between 2002 and 2005. He killed himself in August while being held on those charges in a Manhattan jail.
Wednesday's court filing offered more details on how Epstein managed to avoid scrutiny in the Virgin Islands, where he maintained a residence on Little St. James, which he bought in 1998.
According to the complaint, Epstein managed the alleged operation through "a deliberately complex web" of corporations, LLCs, foundations, and other entities. He used private planes, helicopters, boats, and automobiles to transport victims to and from his properties, the complaint said.
Although Epstein renewed his sex offender registration with the government of the Virgin Islands each year, officials sometimes had difficulty checking in at the financier's property.
At his last verification in July 2018, Epstein allegedly refused to permit Virgin Islands investigators and US marshals to enter Little St. James beyond its dock, claiming that the dock was his "front door."
George said the investigation into the alleged sex trafficking operation is ongoing.