Following the Jeffrey Epstein money trail

As I had hoped, many more news outlets have started digging into convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s financial background. In my ongoing attempts attempt to try to understand the financial elements of this saga, I found an informative time line of his life that appeared in the Sunday, July 14, 2019 edition of the Plain Dealer that they had created using Vanity Fair and the Miami Herald as their sources.

1953: Born to middle-class parents in Brooklyn.
1969-71: He attends Cooper Union School of Engineering but never attains a degree.
1973: He’s hired to teach math and physics at The Dalton School in Manhattan. Donald Barr, father of current Attorney General William Barr, is the school’s headmaster at the time.
1976: He joins Investment banking company Bear Stearns at the urging of chairman Alan Greenberg, whose son was a Dalton student.
1982: Epstein launches J. Epstein & Co., managing the finances of clients with $1 billion or more.
1990: He purchases a secluded Palm Beach, Florida, mansion, the site of several alleged assaults.
1996: He relocates his company, which he’s renamed Financial Trust Co., to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
1996: Epstein declares a Manhattan mansion at 9 E. 71st St. to be his, but the details are unclear. It’s mentioned by several accusers as the location where they were assaulted.
1998: He buys Little St. James Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. ”Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,”’ said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. ”It’s our dark corner.”
2005: A 14-year-old girl says she was paid to give Epstein a massage. The police investigation uncovers that he is in contact with many girls.
2006: In May, Epstein is charged with multiple counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor. In July, the investigation is referred to the FBI.
2007-08: Epstein receives a plea deal with Alex Acosta, who was then U.S. attorney for Southern Florida. Epstein receives 18 months in jail but serves only 12. The Miami Herald has since reported that Acosta signed off on a nonprosecution agreement that was ”negotiated, signed and sealed so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes.” Acosta went on to become secretary of Labor in April 2017; he resigned Friday amid the growing scandal.
2011: Epstein fails to report as a sex offender to New York.
2015: Virginia Roberts states in a sworn affidavit that he began abusing her at the age of 15 in 1999 while she was employed at Mar-a-Lago.
2018: Beginning in November, the Miami Herald publishes a series outlining Epstein’s sexual misconduct and judicial leniency.
2019: Jennifer Araoz alleges that a woman recruited her outside high school in 2001, and that Epstein later raped her. She was 14.
July 2019: Epstein is arrested July 6 on charges of child sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. He’s accused of paying more than a dozen women and girls to engage in sex acts. Epstein’s lawyers claim that at worst, it was akin to soliciting prostitution.

There are several things in the timeline that require closer scrutiny.

Elite private K-12 schools like Dalton pride themselves on having highly credentialed teachers, every one with postgraduate degrees and many with PhDs.. This is a big selling point to wealthy parents. So why did the then principal of the school, who happens to be current attorney general Bill Barr’s father, hire Epstein as a math and physics teacher at the tender age of just 20 despite him not having even a bachelors degree nor coming from a wealthy family with connections?

He taught calculus and physics at the prestigious Dalton School, a prep school in Manhattan, from 1973 to 1975, despite not having a college degree. Attorney General William Barr’s father, Donald Barr, was headmaster at the time.

Dalton graduate Paul Grossman said that he never had Epstein in class but that he was known among students as a math whiz.

“Everyone pretty much knew him as brilliant,” said Grossman, who graduated in 1978. “None of us were surprised that when he left Dalton he made a zillion dollars in business.”

Although Epstein did not graduate from Cooper Union School of Engineering, it is possible that he learned enough mathematics and physics while there so that, once hired for whatever reason, he was a good teacher of high school students. The fact that some students considered him a ‘math whiz’ and ‘brilliant’ is not surprising. It is quite easy for a teacher in math and physics to so impress even college students that they think the teacher is brilliant, so I suspect that it would be even easier to impress high school students. We know that Epstein worked hard to convey the impression to all and sundry that he was some kind of self-taught polymath genius. Incidentally, Dalton is a co-ed school. I wonder how Epstein dealt with his pedophilic tendencies while teaching there, since we now know that the ages of high school girls fall squarely within his targeted predatory range.

He was then hired by the big investment firm Bear Stearns, at the age of 23, again without having any real qualifications.

Epstein left Dalton in the mid-1970s for a job at Bear Stearns at the urging of a student’s father who arranged a meeting with the chairman of the investment bank, according to published reports. He later began his own money-management business, J. Epstein & Co.

It is a puzzle why the father of one of those students who considered his teacher to be brilliant would consider that sufficient to arrange a meeting for him with Alan Greenberg, the chairman of the major investment bank Bear Stearns and the father of another Dalton student, and why then Greenberg hired the 23-year old in 1976. He apparently rose in the ranks to become a partner by the age of 29 (at least according to some reports) before having to leave because of SEC violations, and then starting his own hedge fund. There has to be more to that story other than that Epstein is a really smooth talker who knows how to impress wealthy people into thinking that he is smart and capable and trustworthy, though there is an outside chance that that may be true. Conmen are highly skilled at knowing how to impress and then dupe people.

The next puzzle is how at the age of 29, Epstein was able to start his own hedge fund and claim that he would only accept clients with assets of a billion dollars or more to invest. This is reported as fact but it appears to be a story that was floated by Epstein at some point to give people the impression that he himself was very wealthy. Other hedge fund managers say that it would be impossible for him to acquire such wealthy clients while not making a ripple in the hedge fund world. Hedge fund managers apparently typically work on a 2/20 fee structure. This means that each year they take 2% of the assets invested with them and 20% of the profits made that year. So if someone invests $1 billion and the investment returns 20% that year to raise its value to $1.2 billion, the hedge fund manager would charge a fee of $20 million (the 2%) plus $40 million (20% on the $200 million profit). (In following the Epstein money trail, I have learned more about the world of the oligarchy than I ever wanted to know.)

The next puzzle is his acquiring of the mansion in Manhattan that had been owned by Leslie Wexner .

Epstein also forged a relationship with Leslie Wexner, the retail titan behind Victoria’s Secret, The Limited and other store chains. He started managing Wexner’s money in the late 1980s and helped straighten out the finances for a real estate development that Wexner was backing in a wealthy Columbus, Ohio, suburb.

It was through Wexner that Epstein acquired his seven-story, 21,000-square-foot Manhattan mansion, less than a block from Central Park. The mansion has been noted for Epstein’s decorating decisions: a life-size female doll hanging from a chandelier, a hallway lined with artificial eyeballs made for wounded British soldiers.

Wexner’s relationship with Epstein soured around the time of the money man’s Florida arrest, and Wexner severed ties with him nearly 12 years ago. Wexner has not commented on Epstein’s latest arrest.

It is not clear how Epstein got the mansion from Wexner. There are reports that Wexner sold it to Epstein for just $1 for it. i.e., it was a gift from Wexner. But who gives such expensive gifts? If they do, it is to family members or to charities in order to get favorable publicity and tax benefits. Also, why did Wexner’s relationship with Epstein go sour? Wexner has been very tight-lipped about his role in this whole business and his relationship with Epstein, even though the relationship ‘soured’. This should receive more scrutiny as well.

Another article provides more details that raise even more questions.

In a court filing last week, prosecutors said they had determined that financier Jeffrey Epstein was worth at least $500 million and earning $10 million a year—the first concrete details about his wealth to emerge in years.

But while the documents confirmed that the accused sex trafficker is fantastically wealthy, the source of Epstein’s fortune remains a mystery. How did a money manager with a single confirmed client amass riches including a $77-million Manhattan mansion and his own private Caribbean island?

$10 million a year is a lot of money. But how could someone earning even that large amount pledge $30 million to Harvard University, in addition to other donations, and support his lavish lifestyle?

It is clear that he liked to use his money to surround himself with celebrities.

Epstein’s black book of contacts – the printed phone directory that his Palm Beach butler, Alfredo Rodriguez, stole and that later was obtained by the FBI – includes Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger; more than a dozen aides to Clinton; other celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, Naomi Campbell and Jimmy Buffett; media titans such as Rupert Murdoch, Conrad Black and Michael Bloomberg; business magnates such as Richard Branson, Steve Forbes and Edgar Bronfman Jr; Kennedys, Rockefellers and Rothschilds; lords and ladies; ambassadors and senators.

The book lists 16 phone numbers for the Duke of York and his aides, and 18 for the Duchess of York and her court.

There are Democrats and Republicans, movie stars and movie moguls, an Israeli prime minister (Ehud Barak) and Saudi royals (Bandar and Salman), prime ministers and fellow billionaires. The list includes Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and sex counsellor Ruth Westheimer, comic John Cleese and director Julie Taymor, and TV journalists Barbara Walters and Mike Wallace.

Epstein developed relationships with politicians in New York, Florida and New Mexico, where he had a ranch he named Zorro. He also knew and spent time with two presidents, Mr Clinton and Mr Trump.

“Epstein surrounded himself with politicians to gain leverage,” Ms Sarnoff said. “They gave him protection, credibility and social mobility.”

If the black book is any guide to the proximity Epstein had to the many boldface names in its pages, then his relationship with Mr Trump was a significant one. Epstein listed 14 phone numbers for Mr Trump; his wife, Melania; his longtime personal assistant, Norma Foerderer; his houseman; and his security officer. Other Trumps in the book include the President’s brother Robert and his wife, Blaine; the President’s ex-wife Ivana; and their daughter, Ivanka.

Did he just like to hang out with famous people as a form of vanity? Or, as has been whispered among hedge fund managers and detailed in an explosive twitter thread that has as yet no supporting evidence, were they the bait that lured extremely wealthy people into his social circle and tempted them into illegal acts with minors that resulted in them being forced into ‘investing’ in his firm as a means of hiding the fact that it was really extortion?

So many questions, so few answers. Let’s hope that changes soon.

TThe judge will rule on his bail application later today. [UPDATE: The judge says that new evidence presented by the prosecutors about fake passports, piles of cash, and dozens of diamonds found in the raid on Epstein’s home require more time for him to study and that he has postponed his ruling until Thursday.]


  1. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current live States blog:

    […] A federal prosecutor on Monday said the evidence against accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is “already significantly strong and getting stronger every single day” since his arrest last week.

    Alex Rossmiller, the prosecutor, at a detention hearing in Manhattan federal court told a judge that multiple witnesses have contacted authorities since Epstein was arrested, and that prosecutors are trying to corroborate their allegation, NBC reports.

    And Rossmiller also said that federal investigators had found in Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse a locked safe containing cash, diamonds and an expired passport from another country that has Epstein’s photograph on it, but with a different name and a stated residence of Saudi Arabia.

    Nothing in the excerpted snippet on the issue date of that dubious passport, but I suspect that could be interesing…

  2. Myra Greenwood says

    Definitely think Epstein was blackmailing people whom he got young white girls for. The passport from the Saudi’s show what a terrorist state it has.

  3. blf says

    The passport from the Saudi’s…

    Citation required.
    All reports I’ve read merely said “from a foreign country”; Saudi Arabia is the place of residence the passport shows. This is not odd. Unusual, perhaps, but not odd. I have, e.g., a (legitimate!) US passport showing my place of residence is France. That does not make it a French passport. It is a US passport. With a French residence.

    Actually, if you check a US passport, you should notice it doesn’t list the place of residence. So to be pedantically accurate, I should say the application filed for that US passport shows a French residence.

  4. Owlmirror says


    Recently filed document: LETTER by USA as to Jeffrey Epstein addressed to Judge Richard M. Berman from Alison Moe dated July 17, 2019 re: the defendant’s foreign passport. Document filed by USA. (Moe, Alison) (Entered: 07/17/2019)

    The Government respectfully submits this letter to briefly respond to one aspect of the defendant’s July 16, 2019 letter (ECF No. 24), and to provide the Court with additional information regarding the defendant’s foreign passport. The defendant’s July 16, 2019 letter asserts: “[A]s for the Austrian passport the government trumpets, it expired 32 years ago. And the government offers nothing to suggest—and certainly no evidence—that Epstein ever used it.” (ECF No. 24 at 7). In fact, the passport contains numerous ingress and egress stamps, including stamps that reflect use of the passport to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.

    The Government further notes that the defendant’s submission does not address how the
    defendant obtained the foreign passport and, more concerning, the defendant has still not disclosed to the Court whether he is a citizen or legal permanent resident of a country other than the United States.

  5. Owlmirror says

    And here’s the followup:

    LETTER RESPONSE in Support of Motion by Jeffrey Epstein addressed to Judge Richard M. Berman from Marc Fernich dated 7/18/2019

    Epstein was given the passport at issue by a friend. Some Jewish-Americans were informally advised at the time to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally in case of hijacking. He never used the document to travel internationally and never presented it to any immigration or customs authority. The passport stamps, predating his receipt of the document, do not reflect Mr. Epstein’s entries or exits. His expired US passports, seized by the government and in its possession, would verify his true travel. The defense has asked the government to bring the original document to court for examination and inspection.

    As Mr. Epstein truthfully reported in his Pretrial Services interview, he is a life-long American citizen. He has no other citizenship or legal permanent residency

    So rather than Epstein having a second identity in Austria, he just happens to have had “a friend” who could procure an Austrian passport in someone else’s name, and already having exit and entry stamps of several different countries for verisimilitude.

    I see.

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