Disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on Saturday after an apparent suicide in the New York jail cell where he was being held without bail on sex-trafficking charges.
Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell in the Special Housing Unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, Reuters reports, citing the US Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Epstein, a well-connected money manager dogged for years by allegations that he sexually abused girls and young women, was found hanging by his neck, according to a Reuters source.
The financier, who once counted Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former President Bill Clinton as friends, was arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14, from at least 2002 to 2005.
The FBI and the Department of Justice’s Inspector General were opening investigations into his death, US Attorney General William Barr said, adding that he was “appalled” to learn of the apparent suicide in federal custody.
Last month, Epstein was found unconscious on the floor of his jail cell with marks on his neck, and officials were investigating that incident as a possible suicide or assault.
“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement.
Even though Epstein was found unconscious last month, he had recently been taken off suicide watch, a special set of procedures for inmates in danger of taking their own life, according to the Reuters source. The financier was in a cell by himself when his body was found.
It was not immediately clear why Epstein was taken off suicide watch, the report said.
Epstein was arrested on July 6 at a New Jersey airport after taking a private plane from Paris. Last month, a judge refused Epstein’s request to release him on bail and allow him to live under 24-hour guard in his opulent townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The financier was appealing that ruling.
The indictment accused Epstein of knowingly recruiting underage women to engage in sex acts with him, sometimes over a period of years while paying the women for each encounter.
Prosecutors said a search of his townhouse, conducted under a warrant, uncovered evidence of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of nude photographs of “what appeared to be underage girls,” including some photos cataloged on compact discs and kept in a locked safe.
In a court filing on July 25, the government said it was pursuing an “ongoing investigation of uncharged individuals” in connection with the case.
That investigation, by the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, will continue despite Epstein’s death.
“Today’s events are disturbing, and we are deeply aware of their potential to present yet another hurdle to giving Epstein’s many victims their day in court,” Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
“Our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment – which included a conspiracy count – remains ongoing.”
The death came a day after the unsealing of a court filing in which a woman who accused Epstein of keeping her as a sex slave said one of the financier’s associates had instructed her to have sex with at least a half-dozen prominent men.
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