For decades, Jeffrey Epstein, the finance whiz who has been charged with sex trafficking, moved with open ease between the planet’s highest echelons of power and what prosecutors portray as a sordid world of recruiting and sexually abusing teenage girls.
He met with leaders of the nation’s top universities and research labs, traveled with presidents and princes, and managed money for leading business figures. He said the minimum investment he would handle was $1 billion.
Even as dozens of women were looking to police, prosecutors and courts to hold Epstein to account for his alleged sexual abuses, he was amassing a stunning list of contacts and, in some cases, defenders across the worlds of Hollywood moviemaking, medical research, diplomacy, finance, politics and law.
From humble beginnings in Brooklyn’s Coney Island as the son of a parks worker, Epstein, a college dropout, became a crackerjack trader on Wall Street — a math genius who taught at a Manhattan private school until he was offered a job at Bear Stearns in 1976. He made lots of money for some of the firm’s wealthy clients, and in 1981, he set out on his own, becoming a financial adviser to Leslie Wexner, founder of the Limited retail empire.
Before long, Epstein, now 66, was not just helping the rich get richer but was building his own fortune — and flaunting it with a dazzling array of properties and perks. His house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was said to be the largest private home in the city, valued at $77 million; his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., rivaled those of Donald Trump and other billionaires.
Epstein used his money to construct a worldwide network of contacts. He donated large sums toward neuroscience research at Harvard and a California lab. He invited researchers to his New York house and talked math with them over equations scrawled on a blackboard in his dining room. He flew former president Bill Clinton and actor Kevin Spacey to Africa to promote AIDS awareness. He was a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.