Jeffrey Epstein is dead. Prosecutors could still go after his inner circle if they helped him prey on young girls

Kevin McCoy, Kristine Phillips and Cara Kelly

Jeffrey Epstein's death in a jail suicide spared the wealthy financier from the possibility of decades in prison on a federal indictment that accused him of sexually trafficking girls as young as 14 in New York and Florida from 2002 to 2005.

It also deprived federal prosecutors in New York and the women who allege that Epstein sexually abused or raped them of their chief target for criminal and civil lawsuits.

Now the women, and possibly prosecutors, are examining potential court actions against other legal targets: the financier's ex-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell and several of his former associates. At least six women who accused Epstein of sexual abuse have already filed lawsuits against his estate and associates.

The multimillionaire businessman gained fame by moving in a social circle that included Britain's Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, and a pre-presidency Donald Trump. Epstein also handled investments for L Brand retail titan Leslie Wexner and cultivated friendships with attorney Alan Dershowitz, hedge fund founder Glenn Dubin, top scientists, and others.

The indictment handed up in New York City in July focused on a darker aspect of Epstein's life. It alleged that the 66-year-old financier "sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls" at his mansions in Manhattan, Palm Beach, Florida, and at other locations. Epstein allegedly paid some of his victims to recruit other underage girls for him.

A hearing on the prosecution motion to dismiss the case based on Epstein's death is set for Tuesday. 

The charges came 11 years after Epstein avoided what could have been a lengthy prison sentence because of a non-prosecution agreement reached with Florida prosecutors who investigated allegations of sex trafficking.

Legal experts say it will likely be difficult for prosecutors and Epstein victims to win criminal cases and civil lawsuits against the financier's former associates.

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Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, awaiting sex trafficking charges, dead of apparent suicide

Alleged co-conspirators could argue that prosecutors are settling on scapegoats, said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. If prosecutors have strong cases against the peripheral players, they would have charged them already, Levenson said.

To successfully indict Maxwell, for example, prosecutors must prove that she knew she was recruiting underage girls and that they would be abused, said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois.

Additionally, victims' attorneys and government lawyers could be hampered by an immunity provision in Epstein's non-prosecution agreement. It said federal prosecutors would not institute criminal charges "against any potential co-conspirators," specifically naming former Epstein associates Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, and Nadia Marcinkova — but said the list was "not limited to" those individuals.

Epstein’s associates will argue that the provision will bar their prosecution but they are unlikely to succeed, Mariotti predicted. Jack Scarola, who represents five Epstein accusers, said the provision should be nullified because it's part of the non-prosecution agreement that a judge ruled had violated the law.

Many of the allegations against Maxwell and others in Epstein's inner circle were unearthed earlier this month after a federal appeals court in New York ordered the unsealing of nearly 2,000 pages of court records, including depositions, police affidavits and motions. The documents were introduced in court during a now-settled lawsuit brought by one of Epstein's accusers. 

Here is a look at allegations against some former associates in Epstein's orbit who have been or might be pursued by prosecutors and victims.

Ghislaine Maxwell

Ghislaine Maxwell is the daughter and youngest child of the late British press baron Robert Maxwell. He died in 1991 after falling overboard near the Canary Islands from his luxury yacht, called Lady Ghislaine.

Media accounts have recounted a narrative arc that began with Maxwell dating Epstein, and later transitioning to a role in which she handled the hiring and administration of the financier's staff and other dealings after the romance cooled.

She helped introduce Epstein to well-known figures from her social circle, including Prince Andrew. A photo showed the British royal and Epstein strolling through New York City's Central Park, and the Daily Mail on Sunday published a video that the media outlet said depicted the prince inside the front door of Epstein's Manhattan mansion.

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David Rodgers, a former Epstein pilot, testified in a court deposition that the royal had occasionally been a passenger on the financier's private jet. Buckingham Palace has said Prince Andrew had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Court records show that Maxwell has been a defendant in at least two civil lawsuits that ended in settlements with women who alleged they were sexually victimized by Epstein. Both lawsuits were settled privately with no admission of wrongdoing.

"She herself recruited young, including underage, females; oversaw and trained other recruiters on how best to recruit girls for sex," Sarah Ransome alleged in a lawsuit she filed in 2017. 

After being lured to provide massages for Epstein, Ransome alleged that Maxwell told her she would lose promised college education and modeling contracts "if she failed to provide the sexual favors desired by defendant Epstein."

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Some women have accused Maxwell of having a key role in Epstein's sex trafficking. Virginia Giuffre, who sued Maxwell for defamation, alleged that she was recruited by Maxwell. The trove of documents unsealed earlier this month were part of Giuffre's now-settled lawsuit.

Maxwell spotted her reading a book about massage in 2000 near the spa at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where Giuffre held a seasonal job, Giuffre said in a deposition. She was in her mid-teens at the time.

According to the deposition, Maxwell told her she knew a man who wanted to hire a traveling masseuse. Giuffre said she had no accreditation. She said Maxwell told her it didn't matter.

"We can train you. We can get you educated," Giuffre said, recounting what she said was Maxwell's recruiting pitch.

However, Giuffre alleged she instead ended up being a sex slave for Epstein and Maxwell. Along with giving the financier massages and sex, Giuffre said Epstein and Maxwell sexually trafficked her to influential and powerful men, including Dubin and  Dershowitz. Both have denied her account.

So has Maxwell.

During a deposition for Giuffre's case, Maxwell referred to some of the allegations as "just another one of Virginia's many fictitious lies and stories to make this a salacious event to get interest and press. It's rubbish."

Along with Epstein's estate, Maxwell is also targeted in a lawsuit another woman filed days after the financier's death. Jennifer Araoz alleged that Maxwell "was employed by and/or conspired with" Epstein. The financier "committed repeated sexual assault and battery," including "forcibly raping her,"  the lawsuit charged.

Araoz, a resident of New York City's Queens borough, was 14 or 15 when the alleged attacks occurred during 2001-2002, according to her lawsuit.

Maxwell did not respond to voice mails seeking comment. A London-based public relations firm that represented Maxwell during the defamation case filed by Giuffre said it no longer worked with the former Epstein girlfriend. 

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Haley Robson

Haley Robson was a Palm Beach Community College student from Loxahatchee, Florida when she met Epstein.

During a 2005 interview with Palm Beach police, Robson said she first met Epstein in approximately 2003, just after she turned 17, according to an affidavit the police department prepared while investigating the financier and others. 

A friend told her she could earn $200 by giving Epstein a massage, Robson told the police investigators. She decided to go. But Robson, who told the police she was naked when she massaged Epstein, became uncomfortable. "He tried to touch me and I stopped him," she told the police.

"After the massage, Epstein stated to Robson that he understood she was not comfortable, but he would pay her if she brought over some girls," the police affidavit summary of Robson's interview stated. "He told her the younger the better."

Tempted by the financial offer, Robson said she agreed.

In all, Robson said she brought at least six girls between the ages of 14 to 16 to Epstein. According to the police affidavit, Robson said she briefed each girl about what to expect: "They were told they would provide a massage, possibly naked, and allow some touching."

At the conclusion of the interview, a police sergeant entered the room "and explained to Robson that based on her own statements, she had implicated herself by bringing underage girls to Epstein's house," the police affidavit said.

Before police officers drove Robson home, they placed a tape recorder in the vehicle to record anything she might say during the ride, the affidavit said.

The police affidavit said that during the drive, Robson said, "I'm like a Heidi Fleiss," a reference to the so-called Hollywood Madam who operated an international prostitution business based in Los Angeles, California during the 1990s. Other girls interviewed by the police said Robson recruited them for Epstein and gave detailed accounts about how they were abused, the affidavit shows.

Robson could not be located. Her mother did not respond to a voice mail.

Sarah Vickers and race car driver Brian Vickers attend the 141st Kentucky Derby - Unbridled Eve Gala at Galt House Hotel & Suites on May 1, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for the 141st Kentucky Derby - Unbridled Eve Gala [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Sarah Kellen

Sarah Kellen, Epstein’s assistant in New York City, was a co-defendant with him in a 2008 Florida state court lawsuit that accused her of conspiring in a years-long scheme of recruiting girls for her boss.

The lawsuit, filed by a girl who accused the financier of sexually abusing her when she was 15, alleged that Kellen and others recruited girls on the false pretense that they would give a wealthy man a “platonic massage.”

The recruitment targeted poor, underage girls from Loxahatchee, a small, unincorporated town just west of West Palm Beach, “because they were easier to entice” with money and were perceived as less likely to go to the police or make credible allegations, the lawsuit charged. The girls allegedly were offered $200 to $300 per massage session.  

The lawsuit, settled privately in 2010 with no admission of wrongdoing, alleged that Kellen served as the intermediary between the recruiters and Epstein. Underage girls who were brought to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion would be introduced to Kellen, who would then get their personal information, such as names and phone numbers, the lawsuit alleged.

The girls were then taken up a flight of stairs, along a hall lined with photographs of nude or partly-clad women, and then to a bedroom with a massage table. Kellen would leave the girls in the bedroom, and Epstein would walk in wearing only a towel, the lawsuit alleged.

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The Palm Beach Police affidavit contains a similar account by an unidentified 16-year-old girl.

Kellen met the girl when she first arrived at Epstein's Palm Beach mansion in 2002, the affidavit said. She was brought into the master bedroom, "where Sarah prepared the room by setting up the massage table and provided the oils for her to rub on Epstein," the affidavit stated.

The session allegedly featured Epstein masturbating as the girl massaged him. Afterward, he walked the girl downstairs, where Kellen awaited with an unidentified person, the affidavit said.

Kellen was also a defendant in Sarah Ransome's lawsuit that was settled in December 2018. Kellen invoked her 5th Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when she declined to answer questions during a deposition for Giuffre's lawsuit against Maxwell, court records show.

Kellen, now known as Sarah Vickers, is married to NASCAR sports car race driver Brian Vickers. She did not respond to calls seeking comment on Epstein-related allegations.

Nadia Marcinkova

Nadia Marcinkova was romantically involved with Epstein, according to a since-settled Florida lawsuit filed by a young woman only identified as B.B. Mancinkova also was often present when Epstein received massages from underage girls, the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit accused Marcinkova of not only coordinating the massages but also “actively and passively” participating in Epstein’s sex acts with minor girls.

Alfredo Rodriguez, a former Epstein butler, gave a similar account during a legal deposition. "Nadia was the number one girlfriend for Mr. Epstein,"  Rodriguez said. "Very sweet girl and she was always – she would come over to the house, but different girls with her all the time."

Asked during the deposition how often Marcinkova would be in the room while Epstein was there with a young girl, Rodriguez said: "I would say most of the time."

Like Kellen, Marcinkova also pleaded her 5th Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when questioned during a deposition as part of Giuffre's lawsuit, court records show. 

Marcinkova has since changed her name to Marcinko, and she now has pilot certifications for different types of aircraft. She did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. 

Lesley Groff

Lesley Groff was among the former Epstein employees who were accused in Sarah Ransome's since-settled lawsuit against the financier.

"Defendant Groff coordinated schedules between defendant Epstein and the various young females used for sex; made travel arrangements for the girls; tended to their living needs; and communicated with them in order to maintain their compliance with the rules of behavior imposed upon them by the enterprise," the lawsuit charged.

Groff's attorney said she had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Her lawyer, Michael Bachner, said in a statement: “Lesley Groff worked as an executive assistant in Jeffrey Epstein’s business office, along with attorneys and other executives. Ms. Groff never knowingly booked travel for anyone under the age of 18, and had no knowledge of alleged illegal activity whatsoever. She is shocked and deeply distraught by the accusations and revelations concerning her former employer.”

Adriana Ross

Adriana Ross, a former model from Poland who became an Epstein assistant, reportedly removed computer drives and other electronic equipment from the financier's Florida mansion before Palm Beach Police searched the home as part of their investigation.

Janusz Banasiak, who started work in 2005 as house manager for the Florida home, made the accusation against Ross during a 2010 legal deposition. "It was Adriana," said Banasiak, as he confirmed that three computers were removed. "She show up one day with gentleman. I don't remember his name. And she told me that they are moving out those computers," Banasiak said.

Ross, who now lives in Miami, Florida, declined to answer questions about Epstein and broke down in tears when a reporter for Britain's Daily approached her outside a nearby Catholic church, the media organization reported on Aug. 16.

Ross did not respond to an email and voice mail seeking comment. 

Jean Luc Brunel

Jean Luc Brunel is a modeling scout, an executive of Mc2 Model & Talent, and a longtime friend and associate of Epstein. 

A court filing on behalf of Virginia Giuffre accused Brunel of using his position as a modeling scout to recruit girls as young as 14 with promises of working as models in the United States. The motion alleges he was able to secure U.S. passports for women from across the world, saying many of the “girls came from poor countries or impoverished backgrounds, and he lured them with the promise of making good money.” 

A lawsuit Brunel filed against Epstein said the financier once provided a $1 million loan so Brunel could invest in the modeling agency.

Records recently unsealed by a federal appeals court in New York offered a glimpse of the personal relationship between Brunel and Epstein. The records included carbon copies of cryptic phone messages that Epstein staffers fielded on his behalf from Brunel.

One message read: “He just did a good one – 18 years -- (she spoke to me and said “I love Jeffrey”). Another stated: “He has a teacher for you to teach you how to speak Russian. She is 2x8 years old not blonde. Lessons are free and you can have first today if you call.” 

Joseph Titone, a Florida attorney who previously represented Brunel, declined to comment. Titone said he does not represent Brunel on any pending matters. A woman who answered the phone at Brunel’s modeling agency in Miami told a reporter she was only there to answer phones and then hung up.  

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jeffrey Epstein estate, Ghislaine Maxwell, others: Charges possible