U.S. Attorney Geoff Berman speaks to reporters Monday at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
July 8 (UPI) -- Billionaire and philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he sexually exploited "dozens" of minor girls in New York, Florida and other locations over a period of three years.
Epstein will be detained in jail until a July 15 detention hearing to determine whether he will be held without bail pending trial, as prosecutor Alex Rossmiller said Monday that he is an "extreme flight risk" and an "acute danger" to the public if he were to be freed on bail.
"He is a man of nearly infinite means," Rossmiller told Judge Henry Pitman.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York told reporters Epstein gave girls "hundreds of dollars in cash" to engage in sexual acts at his mansions in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla. -- sometimes luring them under the pretext they'd give him a massage. The 14-page indictment, unsealed Monday, also said he sometimes paid victims to recruit other victims, and the reported incidents occurred between 2002 and 2005.
Epstein, 66, who was arrested in New Jersey Saturday, faces one count of sex trafficking and a count of conspiracy.
"If you believe you are a victim of this man, Jeffrey Epstein, or if you have evidence or information related to the conduct alleged in the indictment unsealed today, we want to hear from you," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman urged potential victims Monday.
Prosecutors asked the judge to order Epstein to forfeit his New York mansion, which is estimated to cost more than $37 million. Authorities knocked down the door there Saturday to execute search warrants.
Epstein is already a registered sex offender in Florida, stemming from a 2008 case.
"The charges are very serious, and they carry a maximum of 45 years in jail, which to someone of Epstein's age is basically a life sentence," Berman said.
Victims' attorneys said the sex operation was like an organized crime ring with schedulers, recruiters, pilots and bookkeepers. Authorities said girls were brought in from around the world with the promise of modeling careers, educational opportunities and fashion jobs.
"Epstein intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18," the indictment read.
One woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, said she was recruited in 2000 when she was 16. At the time, she worked as a spa attendant at Mar-a-Lago, a Palm Beach resort owned by President Donald Trump.
A Miami Herald investigation last year into the prior case said Epstein struck a deal with then-Miami prosecutor Alexander Acosta in 2007, in which he would plead guilty to two prostitution charges in exchange for dropping all other charges. At the time, Epstein faced a 53-page federal indictment and life in prison. After the plea, he served 13 months. The deal also gave immunity to others involved. Acosta is now labor secretary under Trump. In light of Epstein's arrest, some have called for Acosta to be removed.