NEW YORK (Reuters) - American financier Jeffrey Epstein pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of sex trafficking as prosecutors accused him of luring dozens of girls as young as 14 to his luxury homes in New York and Florida and paying them for sex acts.
An indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan accused Epstein, 66, of arranging for girls to perform nude “massages” and other sex acts, and paying some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005.
The former hedge fund manager “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 said.
Known for socializing with politicians and royalty, Epstein’s friends once included U.S. President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton, and according to court papers Britain’s Prince Andrew. None of those people was mentioned in the indictment.
Wearing dark blue jail scrubs, Epstein entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman to one count of sex trafficking and one count of sex trafficking conspiracy. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
“The alleged behavior shocks the conscience, and while the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims, now young women,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a press conference. “They deserve their day in court.”
Prosecutors told Pitman that Epstein does not deserve bail and should be detained pending trial, saying he posed an “extraordinary risk of flight” because of his wealth, ownership of private planes, and significant international ties.
Pitman did not rule on the request, but will reconsider the matter at a Thursday