FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. House Democrats are asking for documents from federal prosecutors and Florida law enforcement officials as part of a probe into how financier Epstein received a secret plea deal more than a decade ago after he was accused of molesting underage girls.The House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, asking for all emails about the plea deal and how victims should have been notified. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)
FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. House Democrats are asking for documents from federal prosecutors and Florida law enforcement officials as part of a probe into how financier Epstein received a secret plea deal more than a decade ago after he was accused of molesting underage girls.The House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, asking for all emails about the plea deal and how victims should have been notified. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)

Florida woman sues Epstein estate, says she was abused at 14

By Kevin G Hall, McClatchy/Washington Bureau Time of article published Jan 5, 2020

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Washington - Lawyers representing the estate of Jeffrey Epstein started the new year facing a new lawsuit from an alleged sexual abuse victim in what could herald the start of a new cascade of litigation by women who came forward at the urging of federal prosecutors after the multimillionaire's arrest and death in a New York City jail cell.

Around the Christmas holiday, Fort Lauderdale attorney Bradley Edwards electronically filed a new civil suit against Epstein lawyers Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, who are settling the Epstein estate in the US Virgin Islands, where Epstein lived part-time on a private island until his arrest in July 2019 in New Jersey and his death in a New York City jail on August 10.

The accuser is described only as JJ Doe and the nine-page complaint describes her as a then-14-year-old resident of Palm Beach County when she was brought to Epstein's waterfront Palm Beach mansion in 2003. That was several years before Epstein was arrested in Palm Beach but escaped serious punishment in a 2008 deal with the South Florida US Attorney's Office that spared him federal sex trafficking charges in exchange for pleading guilty to prostitution charges in state court. Instead of what could have been life in prison, he served roughly a year in the local jail.

Epstein paid the 14-year-old 200 dollars for what was supposed to be a massage but ended up becoming a coerced sexual encounter, the complaint states. The accuser was one of several who came forward either to lawyers or to prosecutors after Epstein's arrest last July.

Now in her early 30s, the woman says she was brought to the mansion by another minor who the complaint says was "abused and manipulated into sexual misconduct" by Epstein, which would fit the pattern of allegations by dozens of other accusers, who portrayed the operation as a sexual pyramid scheme.

The victim, the complaint said, "has in the past suffered, and will in the future suffer, physical injury, pain and suffering, emotional distress, psychological trauma, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, loss of dignity, invasion of her privacy, disability, disfigurement, and loss of the capacity for enjoyment of life."

Epstein's longtime attorney, Indyke, did not respond to a request for comment. Edwards, representing the victim, was traveling and did not respond to the same request. Edwards represents more than a dozen of Epstein's alleged victims.

The legal development in the Palm Beach County circuit court came against the backdrop of the latest confirmation that the FBI continues to investigate Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's one-time partner. In a Miami Herald investigative series, Perversion of Justice, Epstein's victims described the full scope of the financier's operation, including Maxwell's alleged role in maintaining it.

Epstein's accusers allege she was involved not only in recruiting underage girls, and in having them recruit other girls, but in actually training them to give Epstein massages that turned into sexual assaults.

Reuters reported last week that Maxwell, socialite daughter of the late British newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, remains formally under investigation. The Miami Herald had previously reported that Maxwell was a focus of prosecutors. Attorney General William Barr declared after Epstein's death that his enablers and alleged co-conspirators remain a subject of intense interest.

On Thursday, the website Page Six, a celebrity gossip site affiliated with The New York Post, quoted an unidentified source as saying Maxwell had been hiding in a series of safe houses operated by friends. It said she had left the United States, moving between Britain and Israel, and protected by the leverage provided by the dirt she had on the rich and powerful who were friends of Epstein.

Earlier reporting from Britain's Sky Media said that Maxwell and another Epstein friend, modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, were spotted at a resort in the southern Brazilian city of Santa Catarina.

Sky said in mid-October that a retired US police officer had traced Brunel's phone to the resort and that Maxwell's phone registered on a network there.

McClatchy and The Miami Herald previously interviewed employees at the Sky Media-identified Infinity Blue Resort and Spa, who said that neither Brunel nor Maxwell stayed there, at least under their real names.

The newly filed lawsuit came three days after an investigative story in the Herald described how Brunel, who ran MC2 Model Management, once housed on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road and now no longer affiliated with him, seemed to serve as a means for Epstein to meet an endless stream of young women.

Epstein financed the business with a 1-million-dollar line of credit.

The Herald reported that MC2's Miami office was served with a subpoena by the FBI in July.

Brunel, a Frenchman, was known to scour poor areas of Brazil for tall middle-school girls.

Modeling recruiters flock to southern Brazil the same way scouts prowl Rio de Janeiro's poor slums, called favelas, for the next soccer superstar.

While the hunt for some of Epstein's associates continues across the globe, his estate faces hurdles in the US Virgin Islands.

Earlier reporting by McClatchy showed that Epstein acquired the second of his two islands there under questionable circumstances. The seller of Great St James Cay, Christian Kjaer, one of the richest men in Denmark, was unaware that Epstein was the island's buyer. Documentation offered during the sale negotiation suggested the buyer was a wealthy Dubai businessman.

Epstein had sued in order to gain use of a piece of property that doesn't appear to have come with his purchase of Great St James.

The seller had sought dismissal of that legal action, and the courts in the Virgin Islands had yet to dispose of the matter before the holidays, which was months after the initial filing.

There is growing pressure in the U.S. Virgin Islands for an accounting of how Epstein secured and maintained a lucrative local tax break for his company, Southern Trust Company Inc, a break obtained on the promise of creating a data-mining operation to be run out of the American Yacht Harbor, a marina co-owned by Southern Trust and a company owned by New York developer Andrew Farkas.

A visit on behalf of the Herald over the holidays revealed that Southern Trust appears to still be open for business but there was no obvious sign of any large-scale data-mining operation that Epstein had pledged to establish for the pharmaceutical sector.

Southern Trust still appears on the signage for Building B outside the structure, and guards said the company remains open - despite local rumors that the office was closing. The glass keypad-controlled entrance to Southern Trust's office revealed a sparse office with a small Christmas tree with five wrapped presents underneath it. A television tuned to a business channel hung on the otherwise nondescript office wall.

tca/dpa

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