Review: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)

I watched this four-part mini-series about Jeffrey Epstein. I thought that I knew the Epstein story pretty well but this series was an eye-opener mainly because it gave a voice to the many young girls who were abused and trafficked by Epstein. The number of such girls was astounding, way beyond what I had thought. Their description of how he groomed them and then took advantage of them were so disgusting that at the end of each one-hour episode, I actually felt dirty and had to watch some other show just to partially cleanse my mind.

One thing that the series does well is to give voice to the girls who are now women. They described a pyramid scheme where girls were recruited who would then be asked to recruit other girls. They needed to be listened to and their stories told, however ugly they are. Judge Richard Berman who presided over the case when Epstein was finally arrested in New York, realized the importance of this. He allowed the women to speak at the bail hearing where they finally had the chance to confront their predator and tell him to his face what they thought of him. Berman then refused to offer any bail to Epstein even though his lawyers offered to post hundreds of millions of dollars and even more. The fact that investigators found fake passports and diamonds in his safe suggested that he had escape plans ready if needed. Berman also allowed the women to speak at the hearing at which the charges against Epstein were dropped after he killed himself in jail. In the series, the women expressed their deep gratitude to Berman whom they said was the first person in a position of real authority who listened to them and took their stories into account.

The other people who come out well in the series are the local police in the town Palm Beach who investigated Epstein and felt that they had a solid case against him that they handed over to the state attorney. They were dumbfounded when the state attorney did not take any action and when the US justice department, represented by Alex Acosta (whom Trump later appointed as his labor secretary and had to resign when his role in the Epstein cover-up was exposed) signed off in 2006 on an incredibly lenient deal with Epstein. The local newspaper the Miami Herald also did fine investigative work to expose Epstein and the cover up by Acosta.

What emerges from the show is that Epstein goes well beyond the category of sociopath and is a depraved monster. There is no other way to describe him and the many people who enabled his predatory behavior are equally monsters. The scale of his abuses and the brazen way he had young girls in his presence pretty much all the time make a mockery of the claims of his high-profile friends like prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and others that they had no idea that he was a pedophile. You might be believed if you claim that you did not know that the friend that you regularly hang out with was a small time marijuana dealer. But such a claim of ignorance would not be plausible if he was El Chapo because the scale of his operations makes it hard to miss. Epstein was sex-trafficking on an El Chapo scale. What shocks me is that none of those associates have been as yet arrested and charged, especially Ghislaine Maxwell, reported to be his girl friend as well as his procurer of girls.

The series hints at answers to two important questions. One is how Epstein overcame his modest origins and managed to become so wealthy and what his sources of income were. Although he claimed to be a financial advisor to clients who had assets of a billion dollars or more, he never named them and left almost no footprint in the world of Wall Street and with other traders. He clearly got his start because of his association with billionaire Les Wexner, the owner of women’s clothing lines like The Limited and Victoria’s Secret. Wexner even gave Epstein the power of attorney over his business empire, something that shocked people who knew that Wexner liked to keep tight control over his businesses. In a deposition, Epstein was asked if there had been a sexual relationship between the two. He invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer almost all questions.

The show also hints that blackmail may have been involved. Epstein liked to boast to his victims that he was untouchable because he had so much power and that so many influential people ‘owed him favors’. But investigators found that in Epstein’s New York mansion was a room in which one wall was covered with TV screens that had videostreams from cameras in every room in the house, including bathrooms. Given that so many of the people Epstein liked to wine and dine were entertained in that mansion at which many young girls were present, it is not hard to connect the dots.

One area where the series fails is in not looking at Epstein’s formative experiences to see what might have made him who he was, someone who seemed to lack any empathy whatsoever for what he was putting his young victims through. There was very little time spent on his family, his childhood, and any other influences that might explain how he became the monster he was. Some of the people who were conned by him early in his financial career but gave him a second chance described him as having an almost Svengali-like capacity to get people to overlook his transgressions, but that was superficial.

The ugly moral of this story is that if you are very wealthy, you can not only subvert the justice system, other wealthy people and celebrities will welcome you into their fold even if it is clear that you are an utter pervert.

Here’s the trailer.


  1. says


    Two points: first, I fully understand the use of the term “monster” but I’m uncomfortable with that term because, like calling Trump or Bush “stupid,” it lets the person off the hook. I know this is a really dangerous line to walk, but those out on the long-tail of human behavior are still humans and should be treated for their crimes like any other human might be. There are people in our midst--often labeled socio/psychopaths--that are dangerous to society, but they’re not monsters.

    Which leads me to my second point. You write:

    One area where the series fails is in not looking at Epstein’s formative experiences to see what might have made him who he was, someone who seemed to lack any empathy whatsoever for what he was putting his young victims through.

    There might be some factors in his past that supported the expression of his particular pathology, but my experience as a writer studying criminals makes me lean more toward nature instead of nurture.

    And, I don’t buy the suicide verdict. A person that powerful with so many people within his clutch, was a serious threat to be eliminated.

    Having said that, I doubt we’ll ever know for certain.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    I remember reading an article about Epstein all the way back in 2016, so there has been info about this for a long time. The implication of the article was also that the only reason this wasn’t made into a big issue in that dirty campaign was that both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton would have been equally dragged through the muck if either side had made it an issue, so there was some mutually assured destruction going on.
    I also remember reading that, when they went through his mansion, there was something about finding books and CDs in a safe, and that the police and prosecution would be very interested in finding out what was on them. Now, if I was an honest cop or lawyer who had access to something like that, I’d want to get the info spread around as widely as possible as quickly as possible, because I’d feel as if I was walking around with a target on my back until they got made public. The fact that we haven’t heard anything about them since makes it seem fairly definite that we never will, and somebody was “gotten to” and persuaded to turn the CDs over to someone else “for safekeeping,” ie. the incinerator. I just hope there are still some honest journalists on the case who will be able to figure out where the custodial trail went cold.

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