It only took one person stepping forward to begin his downfall. The latest episode of the “Jeffrey Epstein: Devil in the Darkness” podcast explores the first real investigation against the financier accused of sexually abusing young girls — and how scared his alleged victims were to finally expose him.
“This is a man who had a systematic plan to traffic young girls,” journalist Laura Goldman — who was friends with Isabel Maxwell, the sister of Jeffrey Epstein’s right-hand woman, Ghislaine Maxwell — claims on the podcast. Epstein’s partner at Tower Financial Corporation, Steven Hoffenburg, adds, “Jeffrey Epstein was a man that had a mask. An evil mask … [he] was two people. He was a magnificent personality and he was the worst evil abuser of young girls in the history of America.”
Epstein allegedly got away with abusing those young girls in his Palm Beach mansion for a long time — at least, until a 14-year old girl he was accused of assaulting spoke up.
“I had a young lady who came to my office with her parents, she was 14 at the time and when she came into our offices, she explained through her parents that she was enticed to go to the home of Jeffrey Epstein here in Palm Beach, Florida,” Florida attorney Spencer Kuvin explains. He says she believed she was going to Epstein’s home to make a connection to become a Victoria’s Secret model, but the meeting soon turned sinister.
“She was in told that as part of her interview, she would have to disrobe because obviously, this was for Victoria’s Secret, and she was going to be a model, Mr. Epstein needed to see what she looked like,” Kuvin claims. When the girl did disrobe, she was allegedly offered $300 to give the businessman a massage.
“She was then afraid … she was stuck in a mansion on Palm Beach with nowhere to go, no way to get home. She couldn’t drive. She was only 14 years old … she wanted to just push through it and get out of there,” Kuvin says. The girl alleged that Epstein touched himself and touched her sexually during the massage. She never returned, but a teacher at her school heard her speaking of the incident and reported it to her parents, who went to the police.
For months, a surveillance operation was conducted on Epstein’s Palm Beach home. During trash pulls, reporter Andy Tillett says pieces of paper with telephone messages for Epstein were discovered, with notes like, “He has a teacher for you to teach you how to speak Russian. She is 2 times 8 — that’s 16 — years old.”
“The stories kept coming back nearly identical,” Kuvin says. “Each one would tell a story of being convinced to come out to the house, having to perform some type of massage on Mr. Epstein while he was in a state of disrobe … he would ask them to disrobe, he would reach out, he would touch them, he would fondle them … And every single one of them was afraid to talk. Every one was ashamed of what had occurred.”
Several victim interviews are included in the eighth episode of the podcast, and they all have similar stories — they were lured to Epstein’s home under false pretenses, and claim they were sexually abused by the disgraced businessman while there.
One of those victims is Michelle Licata, who says she met Epstein when she was in 10th or 11th grade. She went to his home to give him a massage and claimed he disrobed her and sexually assaulted her. “You’re not really sure if you said no, what would happen?” she says. “That’s what I was afraid of is if I say no, am I going to be killed?”
“He knew that it made me feel uncomfortable,” Licata adds. “I backed up with my hands and I was up against the wall and he was like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Just come back. I promise I won’t do that again.’ He knew that I was uncomfortable. He continued anyway.” After the incident, Licata left Epstein’s home and never returned.
“Here is a very wealthy man who’s showing interest and suggests in some cases he can help them with their education or he can help them to get a job or he can help them to mentor them emotionally to protect them,” Gloria Allred, who is representing several Epstein victims, says on the podcast. “But the person who is supposedly going to protect them is the person who ends up being a predator, and they can’t protect themselves from him.”
Finally, the Palm Beach police executed a search warrant of Epstein’s home. They found two hidden cameras, CDs and DVDs and over 100 photographs of girls — some of which were nude — and some whom the police had interviewed already. Ultimately, Palm Beach County state prosecutor Barry Krischer referred the case to a grand jury that later returned an indictment of just one count of solicitation of prostitution — a stunningly light punishment for his alleged crimes.
In the end, Epstein appeared in court in June 2008 to plead guilty to two lesser counts of unlawful sex acts with a minor and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. He was also required to register as a sex offender. Epstein was eventually released from jail after serving just 13 months of his sentence. “The whole investigation was effectively quashed,” Tillett reports. “There still are a lot of questions remaining about what happened there.”
“I never doubted the stories that these girls were telling,” Kuvin says. “Coming forward at a young age of 15, 16 years old even, it’s a very scary process … they were incredibly frightened about what they were doing and the path they were taking … as far as the credibility of their stories, we never questioned it. It was just way too detailed and validated by so many other girls and young women that had the exact same story to tell.”
“Epstein: Devil In Darkness” is produced by the creators of “Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood,” one of the most downloaded podcast series of 2018. The series was also named to Apple Podcasts’ Most Downloaded New Shows of 2018 and received a 2019 Webby Best Series honoree nod from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
“Epstein: Devil In Darkness” releases new episodes every Thursday.