An exterior view of the Metropolitan Correctional Center jail where financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Picture: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

New York - Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on Saturday after an apparent suicide in the New York jail cell where he was held without bail on US sex-trafficking charges, and a source said he was not on suicide watch at the time of his death.

Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center and transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates the lower Manhattan jail, said in a statement.

Epstein, who was arrested on July 6, had pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14, from at least 2002 to 2005.

Last month, Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck, according to media reports, and officials were investigating that incident as a possible suicide or assault.

Despite that incident, Epstein had been taken off suicide watch, a special set of procedures for inmates deemed in danger of taking their own life, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. He was on suicide watch as late as Thursday, the source said.

The FBI was opening an investigation to determine whether proper procedures to assure his safety were taken overnight, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

At the MCC, two jail guards are required to make separate checks on all MCC prisoners every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed overnight, the source said.

In addition, every 15 minutes guards are required to make another check on prisoners who are on suicide watch.

The exterior of New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital, where Jeffrey Epstein's body was transported. Picture: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

The well-connected money manager was known for socializing with politicians and royalty. Over the years, he counted now President Donald Trump and former Democratic President Bill Clinton as his friends, and, according to court papers, Britain’s Prince Andrew. None of those people was mentioned in the indictment laying out the charges against Epstein.

Epstein had been confined to the correctional center while he appealed a district judge's refusal to let him live under 24-hour guard in his opulent townhouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

The charges against Epstein were announced more than a decade after he pleaded guilty in Florida to state prostitution charges after a deal with prosecutors that has been widely criticized as too lenient.

Before the Bureau of Prisons statement, Aja Davis, a spokeswomen for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said she could not say how Epstein died before her office examined the body.

New York City medical examiner personnel leave their vehicle and walk to the Manhattan Correctional Center where financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. Picture: Bebeto Matthews/AP

Epstein's death came a day after the unsealing of a court filing in which a woman who accused Epstein of keeping her as a sex slave said one of the financier's associates had instructed her to have sex with at least a half-dozen prominent men.

The claim by Virginia Giuffre came in a deposition that was included in about 2,000 pages of documents related to her defamation lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell, the associate whom Giuffre said helped Epstein procure girls for sex.

Lawyers for Maxwell did not respond to several phone and email requests for comment.

Police officers walk outside Metropolitan Correctional Center jail where financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead. Picture: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

In another court filing on July 25, the government said it was pursuing an "ongoing investigation of uncharged individuals" in connection with the sex-trafficking case against Epstein.

That investigation, in the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan, will continue despite Epstein's death, a source familiar with the matter said. 

Reuters