Co-executors of the estate left by the late Jeffrey Epstein and a company he founded in the Virgin Islands were recently named as co-defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by the V.I. Justice Department.
In the process of making that declaration, officials of the Justice Department claimed that Epstein – a convicted pedophile in the state of Florida – defrauded the V.I. government through the Economic Development Authority. The company Epstein founded and used to apply for tax breaks was also named as a co-defendant in early February.
In a letter written recently to the St. Thomas law firm representing Epstein – who died by an apparent suicide in August 2019 – Attorney General Denise George said actions by Justice were designed to guarantee compensation for sex trafficking victims.
The lawsuit alleges that Epstein worked with individuals and entities to create a sex trafficking ring in the Virgin Islands. At a Jan 15 press conference, George said the government would act to make sure victims of that alleged activity can file claims and receive compensation.
Executors Richard Kahn and Darren Indyke, and the 1953 Trust along with Southern Trust, are now named as part of the lawsuit alleging violations of the Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Southern Trust is also accused of defrauding the Virgin Islands government when applying for and obtaining benefits under the Economic Development Authority’s investors program.
Justice officials say that to meet the local hiring requirements under authority regulations, Southern Trust claimed to have 13 employees in the Virgin Islands. But an investigation revealed that some of those individuals lived elsewhere and instead of performing duties at the trust, allegedly provided personal services to Epstein.
Lawyers representing the $577 million estate made their differences with Justice known at a probate hearing held Feb. 4 before Superior Court Magistrate Carolyn Hermon-Percell.
That dispute centers on the imposition of criminal activity liens placed on the estate by Justice. At that hearing Hermon-Percell urged the parties to meet and try to reach a compromise.
In a letter dated Feb. 10, George said the parties met and talked, as the magistrate asked. The attorney general’s letter spelled out the reasons why the proposal offered by Epstein’s estate did not comport with Virgin Islands law.
Within days of the probate hearing, lawyers for the estate asked the court to extinguish the liens. Assistant Attorney General Ariel Smith countered with an opposition motion, saying the probate judge could not.
Smith heads the Justice Department’s Civil Division and is expected to argue the government’s case at trial. She said because Justice filed a lawsuit against Epstein, the liens would have to remain until the case goes to trial.
The court is being asked to declare that Epstein and his associates were actors in a civil conspiracy involving human trafficking, forced labor and sexual servitude in the Virgin Islands.
If that request is granted, the government asks to be compensated for wrongful acts and the harm they caused to the territory and the victims of those acts. Justice also wants a victims’ compensation fund free from the conditions set by lawyers representing the estate.
George’s four-page letter of Feb. 10 says the fund must be made available to victims who decide not to come forward right away. While the government agrees that those human trafficking and sex abuse victims who have already come forward should be compensated, George said others more reluctant to come forward should not be denied.
The attorney general also opposed a proposed requirement that would compel victims to sign third-party releases preventing them from disclosing the terms of their compensation.
“These releases serve no purpose and will only silence victims and prevent them from seeking accountability and recovery from other individuals and entities that participated in, facilitated and covered up Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes,” the letter said.
A third condition expressed in the letter said the Epstein Estate “should play no role in choosing an estate administrator or in designing a compensation program.” To do so, George said, gives the appearance of impropriety.
In the stated fourth reason why the estate’s proposal does not comport with V.I. law, Justice calls on those representing the estate to cooperate with law enforcement as they investigate wrongful acts spelled out in the lawsuit.
The letter lists fifteen acts to follow in order to demonstrate cooperation. One calls for a complete inventory and accounting of assets by the estate, the 1953 Trust and those of Epstein to be handed over to the court.