WASHINGTON — At the time of Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide last month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking allegations that dated back a decade, the U.S. Marshals Service was actively investigating more recent reports of underage girls arriving to his private island — as well as unreported European jaunts, new documents show.
Under the terms of his controversial sentencing for solicitation of prostitution from a minor in 2008, Epstein as a registered sex offender had to report his international travel.
New documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Marshals Service was readying to seek help from the governments of France, Austria and Monaco because of unreported travel.
And the documents, first obtained by the website Muckrock, show that the Marshals Service had been pressing authorities in the U.S. Virgin Islands for key Epstein phone records.
The efforts, however, came to an abrupt end with Epstein’s death.
Epstein was found dead on Aug. 10 at the Manhattan Correctional Center, where he was awaiting trial on federal charges of alleged sexual relations with minors. His death was ruled a suicide.
The charges came months after the Miami Herald’s investigative series Perversion of Justice, which explored controversial elements of a 2008 plea deal that was approved by the Justice Department despite credible allegations that Epstein had sexually abused dozens of underage girls. The deal allowed Epstein to avoid federal charges and a potentially long prison stint.
The series renewed prosecutors’ interest in Epstein — and helped lead to his arrest in July.
The documents released on Muckrock shed light on the Marshal Services’ role in that renewed focus.
They also show that two days after Epstein was found hanging in his jail cell, the Marshals’ probes were shut down, and a week later the case was closed.
“As such the search warrant for EPSTEINs phone was cancelled, the MLAT requests for all countries were cancelled, and all investigative activities were cancelled,” said an Aug. 19 memorandum added to Epstein’s case file. “This case is now closed.” Various investigations of the Epstein matter are ongoing, however, and it is possible the Marshals Service efforts have been rolled into existing Justice Department inquiries.
MLAT stands for Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, and the agency was in the process of seeking help from at least three European countries at the time of Epstein’s death. France has opened an investigation into Epstein’s residence and activities there.
The information outlined in the closed Marshals Service investigation seems relevant to the ongoing Justice Department investigation into Epstein’s associates and enablers. Attorney General William Barr has promised to bring to justice Epstein’s associates who aided in what was allegedly a highly organized sex trafficking ring.
Marshals Service officers in New York and South Florida did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Virgin Islands also did not respond to requests for comment.
Another newly released document, from June 13, shows that Epstein reported upcoming travel in March to France but failed to report trips to Austria and Monaco on the same journey.
That led a Marshals Service investigator to travel in July to St. Thomas, where Epstein had by law as a sex offender to report his international travel plans. The inspector subpoenaed records for the phone Epstein listed as his international contact number.
FAA flight records, noted an Aug. 5 document, also showed Epstein’s plane traveled to many more places than reported.
The newly released documents, redacted in many places, also show that the Marshals Service was actively investigating reports that an air traffic controller in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned a private island, had spotted Epstein traveling multiple times with what appeared to be teenage or preteen girls.
A June 24 report from the Marshals Service, two weeks before Epstein’s arrest, indicates that one of its investigators had spoken about this with a Miami Herald investigative reporter, whose name is redacted. The report asserts that the reporter had a confidential source who was a St. Thomas air traffic controller and that the controller had seen Epstein arrive at the airport with girls who appeared to be as young as 12 as recently as 2018. The report says the deputy marshal asked for the name and phone number of the individual and that the reporter provided it at that time.
There was such a meeting on that date involving Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown and a deputy U.S. marshal.
However, the Marshals Service documents contain an error. Despite being asked on June 24, Brown did not provide the deputy marshal with the confidential source’s contact information. At the time, she did not know the name — and says she would not have passed it along regardless without the source’s permission. She knew of the then-unidentified person’s existence only through a third party.
By the time of Epstein’s arrest on July 6, 2019, Brown had learned the individual’s identity and occupation — air traffic controller. She made contact at that time, hoping the controller would go on the record with Epstein in jail. The controller did not want to do that, but was interested in talking to marshals — provided that they initiated contact.
At the controller’s direction, Brown passed the controller’s information to marshals on July 9. According to the documents, they called the controller on July 10.