What Jeffrey Epstein Did on Work Release Is Now the Subject of an Investigation

A sheriff in Florida ordered an internal investigation Friday into whether deputies violated any rules while monitoring Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy New York financier, on a work-release program a decade ago.

The announcement from Sheriff Ric Bradshaw of Palm Beach County came a few days after a lawyer, Bradley Edwards, accused Mr. Epstein of engaging in “improper sexual contact” during the time he spent outside jail while he was serving time for state charges of soliciting prostitution.

Mr. Edwards represents a number of women with allegations about Mr. Epstein, who is now facing sex-trafficking charges in Manhattan that could result in a 45-year prison sentence if he is convicted.

An investigator working with Mr. Edwards said in an interview Friday that the work-release allegation originated from two women who said they had been brought from another state at the age of 18 to visit Mr. Epstein at his office.

The investigator, Mike Fisten, said the women reported that the meeting turned sexual in nature, with Mr. Epstein naked but for a GPS ankle monitor, and that there was sexual activity that included physical contact.

Mr. Fisten declined to discuss specifics about the women or their stories, which he said included substantial detail, and the sheriff’s department said it did not know the identities of the women and had not received any complaints.

Mr. Epstein’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sheriff’s office said the investigation would explore potential violations in “any actions taken by the deputies assigned to monitor Epstein during his work-release program.”

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CreditPalm Beach Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

“All aspects of the matter will be fully investigated to ensure total transparency and accountability,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

As part of a deal negotiated with the United States attorney in Miami, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to two state prostitution charges in Florida and served 13 months in jail. Officials allowed him to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week outside the facility in order to work.

Mr. Edwards said this week that he had received information from the women about what transpired during those work hours. Mr. Edwards said he did not know of any visitors to the office who were under the age of 18.

Mr. Fisten said that he had long ago sought access to the visitor logs from the work-release program, but wasn’t able to get it. On Thursday, WPTV reported that other records from the department showed Mr. Epstein making work-release stops at his home — sometimes for up to three hours.

In a video posted online by the sheriff’s office this month, Chief Deputy Mike Gauger said Mr. Epstein was closely monitored during his work-release hours. Mr. Epstein had a GPS ankle monitor and was not allowed to wander or even go out for lunch, Chief Deputy Gauger said. The monitoring included an on-site deputy, paid for by Mr. Epstein, and a sign-in sheet to track limited visitation rights.

“He was not allowed to have family, friends, guests at his office,” Chief Deputy Gauger said in the video. “The only ones that were allowed to visit him were his attorneys or his business partner.”

The work-release arrangement was not part of Mr. Epstein’s deal with prosecutors, but was approved later by the sheriff’s office. Chief Deputy Gauger said that Mr. Epstein met the department’s qualifications for the program.

On Thursday Judge Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court rejected Mr. Epstein’s request to await trial under home detention, saying that he was concerned about whether Mr. Epstein would abuse teenage girls if he were released from custody.

The federal indictment in New York accuses Mr. Epstein and his employees of paying dozens of underage girls to engage in sex acts at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Fla. He has been detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since his arrest this month.

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