Jeffrey Epstein’s death ended the criminal case against him, but lawyers for his alleged victims have vowed to pursue the multimillionaire’s estate to seek justice.
The 66-year-old money manager died on Saturday while awaiting trial on charges that he sex trafficked underage girls. He was being held in jail in Manhattan and his death was “an apparent suicide”, the Department of Justice said.
In court filings, Epstein had listed his net wealth at $559m, including the mansions in New York and Florida where prosecutors said he abused girls as young as 14 years old. Attorneys said they would fight to ensure Epstein’s assets were used to compensate his alleged victims.
“I can promise you I will get to them on behalf of my client, come hell or high water,” said Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who represents one of Epstein’s alleged victims referenced in his recent indictment.
Epstein had been arrested last month and indicted by the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York. The case came more than a decade after he escaped federal charges in 2007 with a controversial plea deal that allowed him to plead guilty to less serious state offences.
He ultimately served just 13 months in a county jail, much of it on work release, and none of his alleged co-conspirators faced any charges. On Saturday, Geoffrey Berman, the Manhattan US attorney, made clear that his office was continuing to investigate associates of Epstein.
“Our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing,” he said in a statement.
The FBI and the justice department’s inspector-general are investigating Epstein’s sudden death, which came after an incident last month when he was found unresponsive in his cell with marks on his neck.
He had been placed on suicide watch following that incident but was taken off watch before his death, according to a person familiar with the matter. The reasons for that decision are not clear.
The administration of Epstein’s estate following his death should shed further light on Epstein’s finances and business dealings, according to Spencer Kuvin, who represented three of Epstein’s victims in the 2007 case in Florida.
“You’ll find in the coming months numerous people that were investing with him that you’ll be shocked to learn,” he said. “This is going to open a whole new chapter.”
It is not clear if Epstein had a will or who the beneficiaries may be. In court filings last month, he named his brother Mark as a co-surety of his bond as he tried to seek bail.
Typically, estates are administered in the state where the deceased resided at their time of death. Whoever is appointed to administer the estate will have to locate and collect together Epstein’s assets.
Epstein may have chosen a personal representative to administer his estate after his death, a selection that could be contested by his accusers, Mr Kuvin said.
On MSNBC on Saturday, Lisa Bloom, who represents two of Epstein’s alleged victims, called on the administrator of Epstein’s estate to freeze his assets “so his victims can get full and fair compensation for the life-long injuries he caused them”.
One challenge will be unravelling the complex web of foundations, trusts and other entities that Epstein controlled, according to Adam Horowitz, who settled civil lawsuits on behalf of Epstein’s victims following the 2007 plea deal.
“He knew that people were bringing claims against him . . . he may well have shielded his assets,” said Mr Horowitz. “It wouldn’t surprise me if a large portion of his estate is protected,” he added.