Jeffrey Epstein: the sordid downfall of a plutocrat

Jeffrey Epstein was a financier who rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful. Allegations of sexual abuse have brought him down. But just how did he make his money? 

Jeffrey Epstein © Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

When US federal prosecutors recently unsealed their indictment against Jeffrey Epstein a New York financier with a jet-setting lifestyle and a host of famous friends in business and politics it revealed "sordid details" of sex trafficking allegations dating back to 2002-2005, says The New York Times. Briefly put, Epstein and employees "brought dozens of vulnerable girls, some as young as 14, to his mansions in Manhattan and Florida" where he molested them for cash and bribed them to recruit others to ensure "a steady supply". Prosecutors said that "a vast trove of lewd photos" hidden in a safe showed that Epstein who had dodged federal charges in 2008 after reaching a notably lenient plea deal with South Florida prosecutors was "unrepentant". His lawyers counter that the new case is just "ancient stuff". But, a decade on, it's striking how many questions still hang over Epstein. How much is he actually worth? Where did he get his money? And who exactly are his "billionaire clients"?

Who is Jeffrey Epstein?

So who is Jeffrey Epstein? He had a humble start, says the FT. "A Coney Island native and college dropout," his father worked for the Brooklyn parks department. Epstein had a restless intelligence and charm and "gained access to a different world" when he began teaching maths at Manhattan's elite Dalton School in the 1970s. One parent was Alan "Ace" Greenberg, the Bear Stearns chairman and Wall Street legend, who offered him a job. Epstein left after five years to set up his own money management firm, vowing only to serve billionaires.

A murky past

"It's very murky," Thomas Volscho a US sociology professor who is writing a book about Epstein told New York magazine. Volscho claims to have found "little bits of evidence" that "Epstein is a fraudster": for a start, he embellished his educational background. He speculates that Epstein may have been embezzling funds from the charities he supported, and was possibly involved in money laundering. There's also evidence of "blackmail", which would be in keeping with "the way Epstein operates".

Whatever the truth, the days of Epstein's pomp are almost certainly over, says the FT. He faces 45 years in prison if convicted. The whispers percolating through the Hamptons this August concern who he might take with him.

Recommended

António Horta-Osório: the tennis ace who saved Lloyds Bank
People

António Horta-Osório: the tennis ace who saved Lloyds Bank

António Horta-Osório was determined to rescue Britain’s largest high-street bank from disaster, and he succeeded, if at the cost of his own health. Ca…
2 May 2021
Cazoo’s Alex Chesterman: “I’m not an innovator, just a copycat”
People

Cazoo’s Alex Chesterman: “I’m not an innovator, just a copycat”

Serial entrepreneur Alex Chesterman likes to improve the consumer experience by spotting what’s broken, then fixing it. That’s been a successful strat…
24 Apr 2021
Moderna’s Stéphane Bancel: the maths nerd who struck vaccine gold
People

Moderna’s Stéphane Bancel: the maths nerd who struck vaccine gold

A decade ago, Stéphane Bancel took a gamble and joined a fledgling start-up working on an unproven new technology. The gamble paid off with the rise o…
17 Apr 2021
Will Shu: Deliveroo CEO and its first delivery rider
People

Will Shu: Deliveroo CEO and its first delivery rider

City analyst Will Shu was sick of working long hours at Canary Wharf and having to make do with what was left on the shelf in Tesco for dinner. So he …
10 Apr 2021

Most Popular

What is hyperinflation and could it happen here?
Inflation

What is hyperinflation and could it happen here?

The Bank of England has been accused of the kind of money-printing that could lead to Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation. But that's very unlikely to happe…
4 May 2021
Copper has hit a ten-year high, but this could just be the start of a huge bull market
Industrial metals

Copper has hit a ten-year high, but this could just be the start of a huge bull market

The price of copper is at its highest for ten years. But supply constraints and a massive rise in demand mean it’s not going to stop there, says Domin…
5 May 2021
Micro-cap stocks: how to get huge returns from tiny firms
Small cap stocks

Micro-cap stocks: how to get huge returns from tiny firms

Micro-cap stocks are often overlooked, but the British market has plenty of them and their potential is massive. Max King picks the best two investmen…
3 May 2021