The apparent suicide of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein at the weekend may have denied his victims millions of dollars in compensation
Epstein, 66, was facing new sex trafficking and conspiracy charges that, if he was convicted, could have resulted in a 45-year prison sentence and the criminal forfeiture of his $77m (£63.7m) mansion in New York City, along with other possible assets.
Those assets could have been used to provide his alleged victims with a special fund through the Justice Department; a standard consideration and procedure for cases involving victims, particularly when one reaches the prominence and magnitude of the Epstein scandal.
There may still be hope for the dozen or so women who have come forward of securing some level of accountability from his estate, according to officials - although success is by no means certain.
A federal judge can still order Epstein’s properties and other assets confiscated within a civil forfeiture case. But prosecutors must successfully argue those assets were involved in his crimes.
“It’s going to be complicated,” Jeff Marcus, a former federal prosecutor, told the Miami Herald.
Previous high-profile civil forfeiture cases have resulted in financial restitution for victims, including the 2007 case involving Enron Coporation CEO Kenneth Lay — who died of a heart attack during the case.
But those cases come with their own challenges, former prosecutor Joe DeMaria told the publication.
“It took seven years for that civil forfeiture case to be settled and the government recovered less than 25 percent of what it sought,” he said.
The Miami Herald reported prosecutors would be required to link Epstein’s properties to criminal activity using a lower standard than that used in criminal cases. Epstein would not be found guilty if his assets were found to be implicated in a crime during the civil case, however.
Predator Jeffrey Epstein killed himself. On behalf of the victims I represent, we would have preferred he lived to face justice.
Our civil cases can still proceed against his estate. Victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused. We’re just getting started.— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom)August 10, 2019
Lisa Bloom, an attorney representing several of Epstein’s alleged victims, wrote in a tweet on Saturday that “victims deserve to be made whole for the lifelong damage he caused”.
“On behalf of the victims I represent, we would have preferred he lived to face justice,” she said, describing Epstein as a “predator”.
“We’re just getting started,” she added.
The FBI and Justice Department have both launched investigations into Epstein's death in federal custody.
The complete results of his autopsy were still pending as of Monday morning. The New York Medical Examiner's office did not respond to requests for comment.