More than a dozen FBI agents raided Jeffrey Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean Monday, proving federal investigators are still fishing for evidence in their sex trafficking probe of the dead degenerate.
A local snorkeling guide said she unwittingly led a group of Texas tourists right to the edge of the dragnet at 10:24 a.m. and saw 15 to 20 agents scouring the convicted pedophile’s personal paradise.
“We were sailing directly into the FBI raid. Officers were everywhere. It was pretty nuts,” Capt. Kelly Quinn with Salty Dog Day Sails told the Daily News.
She said her charter boat was alone in the cove near Epstein’s multimillion-dollar estate on Little St. James, south of St. Thomas, when she noticed the agents about 150 feet away on the dock.
“They had uniforms with FBI in big, bold yellow letters. They were combing the place, getting in golf carts, marching the perimeter, making their rounds, entering buildings,” she said.
Quinn said the agents arrived in Border Patrol boats and were on a bluff overlooking her curious crew as they took a break from their water sports to watch.
“We were the only boat there today. We saw some beautiful fish, swam with turtles and witnessed an FBI raid,” she said. “Everyone was surprised it didn’t happen a lot sooner.”
The raid was a stark reminder that the federal criminal investigation of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking is far from over, despite his shocking Saturday death by apparent suicide in federal custody.
New evidence recovered from the island compound could be used to charge others in the still unfolding case or as fodder for a civil forfeiture action aimed at seizing the property to provide restitution to his alleged victims.
After Epstein’s death, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, the chief prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, said his probe of the predator would continue. He underscored the fact the indictment included a conspiracy charge.
Berman’s office had not yet charged anyone as a co-conspirator, but a highly controversial non-prosecution deal struck between Epstein and federal officials in Florida in 2007 included language saying the agreement extended to four women identified as “potential co-conspirators.”
Epstein, 66, died from his apparent suicide while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges that were outside the scope of his earlier agreement.
His death likely will set the stage for a messy battle over his vast, multimillion-dollar web of international real estate, financial holdings and shadowy shell accounts.
Epstein never married and had no known children. With both parents deceased, his younger brother Mark “Puggy” Epstein, 64, a New York real estate developer, appears to be his most obvious heir.
A man who identified himself as Mark abruptly hung up on The News without commenting Monday.
Epstein’s furtive fortune includes a $77 million mansion on New York’s Upper East Side where the wealthy pervert allegedly abused girls between 2002 and 2005, many of them in a creepy massage room, federal officials said as they sought to seize the posh pad following his arrest.
He also owned Little St. James in the U.S. Virgin Islands, complete with a deluxe compound, and recently acquired an adjacent island known as Great St. James.
And Epstein reportedly controlled a New Mexico property named Zorro Ranch previously valued at $12 million, a plush pad in Paris just steps from the Arc de Triomphe and a gated mansion in Palm Beach, Fla.
No wills were immediately filed Monday in either New York, Florida or the Virgin Islands, court clerks told The News.
If prosecutors decide to file lawsuits to seize Epstein’s luxury properties through civil forfeiture proceedings, it’s possible they could acquire the holdings through a judge’s order or a trial and liquidate the property to form a victims’ restitution fund, Sharon Cohen Levin, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, told The News.
“I can’t imagine a scenario where prosecutors are not considering the prospect of using forfeiture as a means of providing victim compensation,” Levin said.
To succeed, prosecutors would have to file a complaint against each targeted asset, provide notice to anyone with legal interest in the property and ultimately prove it was somehow used in furtherance of a crime, she said.
For example, federal prosecutors could bring a civil forfeiture action against Epstein’s mansion on E. 71st Street and lay out in complaint what crimes they believe were committed at the 7-story mansion and their basis for believing it was used to facilitate the illegal activity, she told The News.
Likely evidence would be the trove of nude photographs depicting underage girls that FBI agents allegedly recovered from a safe in the mansion.
At least one lawyer for several alleged victims has called for an immediate freezing of Epstein’s assets.
“Jeffrey Epstein hurt dozens if not hundreds of girls and women. His estate now has the chance to do the right thing and provide for his victims by freezing his assets, allowing all of them to come forward and present claims, and compensate them for the devastation this predator caused to their lives,” lawyer Lisa Bloom told The News on Monday.
Beyond civil claims, it’s also possible the estate will face dueling probate claims involving upstart heirs seeking a cut of the depraved financier’s fortune.
With that in mind, a company called Morse Genealogical Services posted a website, EpsteinHeirs.com, to solicit possible blood relatives.
“If you believe you may have given birth to a child fathered by the late Jeffrey Epstein who recently committed suicide, or that he may have been your biological father, please contact us immediately, without delay!!” the website reads.