US billionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been charged with two counts of sex trafficking of underage girls after being arrested at a New Jersey airport on Saturday.
Authorities say the wealthy financier paid girls “as young as 14” for massages then molested them at his New York and Florida homes between 2002 and 2005.
Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman said Epstein, a hedge fund tycoon, is suspected of exploiting and abusing “dozens of victims”.
Berman said: “Epstein exploited girls who were vulnerable to abuse, enticed them with cash payments, and escalated his conduct to include sex acts, often at his residence on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
“While the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, the victims – then children and now young women – are no less entitled to their day in court.”
He said the children were “asked to engage in direct or indirect sex acts in exchange for money,” adding that people around Epstein “turned a blind eye” to the behaviour.
Police received an anonymous call from a woman in 2005 who said her 14-year old stepdaughter had told her she had gone to Epstein’s house and been paid $300 for sex.
This began an 11-month undercover FBI investigation into Epstein, at the end of which up to 40 alleged victims had been identified. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution, served 13 months and registered as a sex offender.
In 2002 Donald Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” whilst acknowledging that he knew Epstein liked girls “on the younger side”.