Saturday 24 August 2019

Epstein's $12m ranch searched in child abuse investigation

Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry. Photo: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS
Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry. Photo: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS

Nick Allen

The investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire Wall Street financier charged with underage sex offences, has expanded to a ranch he owns in New Mexico's high desert.

The $12m (€10m) Zorro Ranch is in the hills outside Santa Fe and has a runway for his plane, stables, and perfectly manicured gardens.

The office of Hector Balderas, the New Mexico attorney general, confirmed it was investigating allegations against Epstein, and interviewing people who allege that they were victims.

Mr Balderas has been in contact with prosecutors in New York, where Epstein has already been charged and is awaiting trial.

Epstein (66) was first convicted of under-age sex offences in 2008 when he agreed a plea deal in Florida. He admitted a single charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution in exchange for a 13-month jail sentence, and registering as a sex offender.

Shortly after completing his sentence he bought the New Mexico ranch from the family of the late New Mexico governor Bruce King. Under New Mexico law he was not required to register as a sex offender there.

In a statement, Mr Balderas said the fact Epstein had not been required to register as a sex offender there was a "huge black eye for our state", adding: "New Mexico continues to lag behind the rest of the country in strengthening outdated and weak laws that fail to protect our children from abuse."

Mr Balderas has not said how many alleged victims have been interviewed.

President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton have both moved to distance themselves from Epstein, after they were quizzed about their past links to him.

Telegraph.co.uk

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