Officials of the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday against the Estate of Jeffrey Epstein and six corporate entities he created prior to his apparent suicide last year.
At a news conference on St. Thomas Wednesday afternoon, Attorney General Denise George announced the department’s action and explained its demand that the case be brought to trial.
According to court documents, the suit seeks a judgment from the court declaring that Epstein engaged in a civil conspiracy involving human trafficking, forced labor and sexual servitude in the Virgin Islands.
If the challenge succeeds, George said, the government will seek punitive damages against Epstein’s estate, worth $577 million.
“I wanted to look into it, I did not want to remain complacent as the claims and the allegations were so serious and really shocking to the conscience of many of us here. I authorized an investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, who was a resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands and a registered sex offender in my office,” George said.
The investigation yielded enough information to justify the filing of a lawsuit Wednesday in Superior Court, the attorney general said. The lawsuit alleges that Epstein “used his wealth and power to create Epstein Enterprise, which engaged in a pattern of criminal activity in the Virgin Islands.”
At the time of his death at the Manhattan Correctional Detention Center on Aug. 10, Epstein officially was a resident of Little St. James in Pillsbury Sound, located between St. Thomas and St. John.
Justice officials also allege that Epstein “maintained a deliberately complex web of Virgin Islands corporations, limited liability companies, foundations and other entities, not all of which are yet known to the Government of the Virgin Islands, through which he carried out and concealed his criminal conduct.”
Entities named in the lawsuit include:
The 1953 Trust, created by Epstein two days before his death, containing his financial assets; Nautilus Inc., owner of Little St. James; Great St. Jim LLC, owner of three parcels of land on Great St. James; Poplar Inc., a limited liability company holding the title for Great St. James; Plan D LLC, owner of aircraft that Justice officials say were used to transport sex trafficking victims; Hyperion Air LLC, registered owner of helicopters allegedly used to transport sex trafficking victims.
John and Jane Does were also named as defendants in the suit, described as individuals whose identities are unknown and being sought by the government.
George paused at this point in the press conference to make an appeal to those individuals, and to announce the creation of a hotline where callers can report abuse: 1-800-998-7559.
“I do ask anyone who was trafficked or abused by Jeffrey Epstein in the Virgin Islands to reach out to our office. I also invite you to visit our office as well, if you prefer to speak in person,” she said. “For those of you who have information that might help in this litigation, I urge you to come forward. I know that you may not have recognized what was going on at the time. I understand that even as you may have hated what you saw, and Epstein may have required you to remain quiet. You cannot be liable for reporting criminal activity. Period,” she said.
The conduct is detailed in the filing, broken down into 22 wrongful acts written in the form of a criminal indictment. But George, at the press conference, insisted the department’s action is civil, not criminal.
Those wrongful acts include civil violations of the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and conspiracy to violate CICO. Twenty other allegations arise from those two overriding offenses, including human trafficking, child abuse and neglect, aggravated rape, second-degree rape and conspiracy to commit rape of a minor; unlawful sexual contact, prostitution and keeping a house of prostitution, failure to report travel as required by the V.I. Sex Offenders Registry, fraudulent conveyance and civil conspiracy.
“I want to be clear that this is not a criminal action but a civil enforcement action,” she said. If the government wins its case, the court will render a judgement declaring that the Epstein Enterprise “engaged in a pattern of criminal activity.”
The judgement would allow the government to enforce criminal activity liens, forfeit and divest the defendants of any real or personal property used to facilitate the enterprise. It would also allow for the forfeiture of proceeds or funds obtained during the time when the wrongful acts were committed.
The attorney general made a point of saying her office does not know of any criminal activity or any agency that may be pursuing a criminal investigation into the late Epstein or his associates in the territory. But when questioned by a reporter, George said it’s impossible to say if the newly filed civil suit may produce criminal allegations later on that can be pursued by local prosecutors.