July 18 (UPI) -- A federal New York judge refused bail Thursday for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, on charges he sexually exploited and trafficked dozens of teenage girls -- saying he's too dangerous to be on the streets and a serious flight risk.
Epstein has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and sex trafficking charges stemming from incidents in New York and Florida over a three-year period, between 2002 and 2005. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman, who delayed his bail decision this week to weigh the issue, said Thursday, "I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community."
Epstein's attorneys asked for house arrest and electric monitoring at this $77 million Manhattan mansion, which is where prosecutors say some of the criminal acts occurred.
As a result of Thursday's ruling, Epstein will remain incarcerated until trial, for which a start date has not yet been announced.
The judge said prosecutors successfully established a "preponderance" of evidence Epstein posed a flight risk. This week, prosecutors said investigators found in Epstein's home a phony Saudi passport, a pile of diamonds, valuable artwork and about $70,000 in cash. Berman called the discoveries "concerning" and said the government established community danger by "clear and convincing evidence."
Defense attorneys have said the passport was nearly 40 years old and its purpose was to avert "potential kidnappers, hijackers or terrorists" during travel, as his wealth and Jewish faith made him a target in the Middle East. Prosecutors showed the passport was stamped in several European countries and Saudi Arabia during the 1980s.
Prosecutors said the case against the billionaire has grown stronger by the day, adding that multiple additional women have come forward in recent days with reports of more abuse. One accuser, Courtney Wild, said this week Epstein is a "scary person to have walking the streets" -- and another, Annie Farmer, said she was 16 when she met Epstein.Berman said the women's testimony was a significant factor in his decision to deny bail.
A registered sex offender from a separate case in 2008, Epstein was arrested July 6 at a New Jersey airport after returning from Paris. He faces up to 45 years in prison.