Dozens of Jeffrey Epstein victims compensated from special fund

After repeated delays, $125m allocated for sexual assault victims provides some closure

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 8, 2019, a protest group called "Hot Mess" hold up photos of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the Federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City.  The wealthy US financier Jeffrey Epstein, indicted on charges he trafficked underage girls for sex, committed suicide in prison, US news media reported on August 10, 2019. Epstein, who had hobnobbed with politicians and celebrities over the years and was already a convicted sex offender, hanged himself in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and his body was found around 7:30 Saturday morning, The New York Times and other media said, quoting officials.  / AFP / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / STEPHANIE KEITH
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A fund that was established to compensate Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse victims said it has largely completed its work after disbursing some $125 million.

Dozens of victims received money from the Epstein Victims' Compensation Programme, which was created in June 2020, funded with Epstein assets seized by US Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George.

Epstein, 66, hanged himself in August 2019 in a New York prison cell a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges. His death, which was ruled a suicide, came as he awaited federal charges of sex trafficking in New York.

Victims say Epstein had over the decades sexually abused them, often by turning massages in his mansion into sexual assaults.

The fund's winding down was announced on Monday by its administrator, Jordana Feldman.

She said 92 per cent of 150 eligible applicants had accepted what was offered by the fund — which received 225 claims — far more than the roughly 100 or so claims that were expected based on the number of women who had sued and spoken to lawyers.

Many of the victims had been represented by lawyers, while others could file complaints through the programme’s website advertising a March 2021 deadline to file claims.

Though Epstein's death denied his victims their day in court, payouts from the fund provide at least some closure. Many had been left in limbo after Ms George froze the funds on two separate occasions, accusing the Epstein executors of raiding the coffers and mismanaging the funds.

Epstein, a New York financial adviser, pleaded guilty in a Florida state court of procuring a child for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute. He served no more than 13 months in custody and was allowed to leave the jail escorted by his own security team.

The fund was designed as an alternative to lawsuits, which can take years to lead to a payout.

Ms Feldman, who also handled the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, had been responsible for determining the specific damages to the victims.

They all had to produce evidence supporting their claims, and if deemed credible, were awarded compensation, which they had 60 days to accept or reject.

“We estimate that some victims will receive into the tens of thousands while others in the millions,” Ms Feldman said at a probate hearing in a Virgin Islands courtroom held in February 2020.

Awards were not formulaic but instead resulted from a study of numerous factors, including the victim’s age, severity of abuse, frequency and impact of abuse, the extent of collaboration and the general credibility of the claim, Ms Feldman said.

Epstein's estate was initially valued between $500-600m. When Epstein's lawyers picked Ms Feldman to administer the compensation fund, Ms George initially objected.

“They’re allowed to handpick who handles the fund? It’s a blatant conflict of interest,” Ms George said at the time. “They don’t have any regard for the victims or the people of the Virgin Islands. Who are they to say how the money is spent?”

Days before the hearing, Ms George had placed a lien on Epstein's entire estate and filed a forfeiture action on behalf of the government. She eventually allowed the fund to proceed after it addressed her concerns.

Epstein, who had been a legal resident of New York when found guilty of the 2008 charges, had moved his residency to the Virgin Islands — where restrictions associated with his sex offender status were much looser than in New York. He once compared his Florida conviction to “stealing a bagel".

Ms George again froze the assets in February after she said executors had failed to make payments into the fund.

“The estate has found its way to pay for lawyers, landscaping and helicopter fees, but not the brave women who have stepped forward to participate in the compensation fund,” Ms George said in a statement at the time.

After executors met Ms George demands, the funds were again released, allowing the programme to process victim payments.

Ms Feldman said the compensation is not based on statutes of limitations or prior settlements and that if she wishes, Ms George can still call them as witnesses for any criminal investigation, which also means that they are not precluded from giving evidence in the coming trial of Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell.

Virginia Giuffre, one of Maxwell’s accusers who is expected to give evidence in the trial scheduled for November, filed a lawsuit against Prince Andrew on Monday alleging she was sexually assaulted by the prince.

He has denied all charges, expressing regrets for not cutting ties with Epstein.

In February 2020, Ms George said she had heard accounts confirming that Prince Andrew frequented Epstein’s Virgin Islands private island, though she refrained from investigating or bringing charges.

Ms George declined to respond to requests for comment.

Epstein is connected to numerous politicians and businesspeople through his financial dealings and charitable contributions, including former US President Bill Clinton, billionaire Andrew Farkas, former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson and several educational institutions.

Most recently, during an interview with CNN, billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates expressed remorse for ever having dealt with Epstein, calling it “huge mistake”.

Updated: June 28, 2022, 9:45 PM