There's a good chance that outside of "rich pedophile," you barely knew anything about Jeffery Epstein before he died in prison and your social media feed lit up with wild speculation from self-proclaimed experts who once skimmed his Wikipedia page a few years ago. It didn't help that so many celebrities felt the need to weigh in -- ranging from the president, who suggested that the Clintons had Epstein killed, to the lead singer of Foster the People, who alleged that his death was faked so he could be flown to the Middle East and get plastic surgery. And while we don't mean to malign the expertise of the "Pumped Up Kicks" guy, it seems we could all use a primer on a man whose life was darker than any conspiracy theory.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department
Perhaps unexpectedly for a man who dreamed of using his sperm to breed dozens of baby geniuses, Epstein wasn't born into money. He was a middle-class math nerd who skipped two grades in high school but dropped out of college, then was hired to teach at Dalton, an elite prep school. Turns out private school teachers don't actually need to be certified, and Dalton had a reputation for making offbeat decisions to give its sheltered students a taste of reality. They also may have also been facing an urgent staffing shortage. Whatever the reason, Epstein was in the right place at the right time, proving once again that good things happen to terrible people.
Epstein quickly established himself as a hardworking and driven educator who also happened to creep on the school's teenage girls. And do you have any idea how much effort it took to stand out as a creepy guy in the '70s? Back then, statutory rape was considered a perk of being successful! That's the cause and effect to keep in mind here; when you become rich and powerful, you aren't automatically inducted into a shadowy cabal of sex offenders (as far as we know), but if you were always showing the signs, you can get away with a lot more for a lot longer.
Dalton claims they fired Epstein after two years for substandard work, but regardless of the circumstances, he then took a job at investment titan Bear Stearns. This is another role he had no real qualifications for, but he had met and impressed its CEO, whose son was a Dalton student. Remember, it's often not what you know, but who you know (and can disguise your sociopathic tendencies in front of). Epstein learned the ropes, earned a series of promotions, and was praised for his ability to both charm wealthy clients and grasp the mathematical complexities of the nascent field of options trading. Then in 1981, he left Bear Stearns under vague acrimonious circumstances and struck out on his own path of Wall Street madness.
Precisely how much money he made -- and how he made it -- is unclear. Epstein claimed to be (and was often described as) a billionaire, but the only hard numbers he can be tied to are his properties, including a $77 million Manhattan home. But he made a lot, and for all practical purposes, once you get beyond a certain number of millions, it stops being anything but a dong-measuring contest between yacht owners. Epstein also zealously guarded his privacy, and while that led to breathless reports describing him as a shadowy unknown, it's not like we're all up to speed on the portfolios and personal lives of the Berkshire Hathaway board. Rich people are isolated from the rest of the world, by both choice and design.
We're not going to sum up decades of often boring and technical consulting and investing work when there will so obviously be a prestige true crime miniseries about this in a few years anyway. But Epstein's clients did include Steven Hoffenberg, whose Tower Financial Corporation went down in flames and took $450 million with it in one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history, Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi billionaire and arms dealer who helped facilitate Iran-Contra, and Victoria's Secret CEO Les Wexner, who granted Epstein power of attorney and was probably the source of most of his (allegedly misappropriated) wealth. Epstein also made charitable donations and helped fund projects ranging from gossip magazine Radar to a sketchy Israeli security company. Then, in 2005, the first round of investigations began into his sex crimes.
Around 80 women claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Epstein, some numerous times, many underage and financially desperate, and most after being brought to him under the impression that they were only being paid to give him a massage. He would take secret photos of the encounters and display them around his home. We'll let you decide whether you want to read any of the many, many more gross details.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department
The parents of a 14-year-old victim went to the police, who in turn soon assembled enough evidence to put Epstein away for a time ranging from "long" to "hella long." But in what was dubbed the "deal of a lifetime," Epstein provided "unspecified information" to a government that was trying to figure out the mess that was the ongoing 2008 financial crisis. Epstein also served as a witness for the (ultimately failed) prosecution of two Bear Stearns executives. In exchange, he pleaded guilty to one charge, was sentenced to 18 months in a cushy private jail wing, and was allowed out for up to 72 hours a week on "work release." His cell door wasn't even locked. After 13 months, he was released for a year of probationary house arrest, sentenced to the unthinkable hell of jetting between his two mansions and going on long Palm Beach walks and shopping trips for exercise.
Oh, and while serving this cruel and unusual punishment, he was allowed to purchase, among 800 cups of coffee and countless other commissary items, two pairs of panties too small to fit most adult women. Somehow, this did not raise more eyebrows than a Dwayne Johnson lookalike contest.
After being released, Epstein continued to make money, but being a serial sexual predator had put a bit of a dent in his social life. Then, in July 2019, many people heard his name for the first time when he was arrested for basically continuing to do all of the horrific things that he was doing before, right down to keeping piles of convenient photographic evidence. But this time, after being sent to an actual prison, the 66-year-old apparently decided to check out of the party.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Money and/or influence can always trump the testimony of victims. It's Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar, Jimmy Savile, Jerry Sandusky, Gary Glitter, R. Kelly (allegedly), Harvey Weinstein (allegedly) and we're going to stop listing names, because we could literally go all day.
Epstein was a weird, loathsome maniac obsessed with projecting an image of mystery and influence. He stumbled into opportunities and immediately used his success to abuse young women, plot blackmail, dodge taxes, and exploit the financial system. The mistress who helped him secure victims has dropped out of the public eye, but is having public appearances Photoshopped. The MMA fighter who was his bodyguard is stirring up conspiracy theories while claiming that he tried to talk Epstein into stopping his sexual exploits.
Epstein intended to have his head and penis preserved as part of a eugenics-esque interest in improving humanity through genetic engineering. This is someone who looked like a lost cousin of the California Raisins, yet thought his own DNA was so incredible that he wanted to raise a generation of superior bodies and minds by setting up a ranch where women could be impregnated by the dozens. When someone thinks that highly of themselves, it shouldn't be a shock that they would think so little of everyone else.
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