JPMorgan Chase saw a billion dollars pass through its coffers by retaining disgraced sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein as a client and should be held accountable for empowering his prolific abuse, lawyers for the U.S. Virgin Islands alleged at a court hearing Thursday.
“Epstein’s entire business with JPMorgan and JPMorgan’s entire business with Jeffrey Epstein was sex trafficking,” Mimi Liu, a lawyer for the U.S. Attorney General of the Virgin Islands, charged in Manhattan federal court.
“JPMorgan was a full-service bank for Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking.”
The U.S. territory — where Epstein, now deceased, is believed to have committed much of his abuse on his two private islands — is suing the biggest U.S. bank for allegedly providing “indispensable” services that allowed him to operate a staggering human trafficking network.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff heard arguments from both sides seeking summary judgment at Thursday’s court hearing.
Lawyers for the bank vehemently disputed the Virgin Islands’ allegations, arguing the U.S. territory didn’t have authority to bring some of its claims. It contended the territory could seek civil relief for harmed residents of the Caribbean island, but had not identified any.
Liu alleged that the bank, where Epstein was a client from 1998 to 2013, handled over $1 billion in transactions related to Epstein’s human trafficking from 2003 to 2019 when, she argued, no reasonable juror could determine it was unaware he was involved in sex crimes targeting children.
The attorney said undisputed evidence in related litigation showed JPMorgan execs knew of allegations two years before Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting a teenager for sex and that the wealthy Brooklyn-born financier purchased massages with cash — yet the bank continued to look the other way as he shelled out at least $4 million to girls and women, many with Eastern European names, and withdrew $5 million in cash.
“If you take that $9 million and you divide it by the hundreds of dollars Epstein was known to pay victims,” it would amount to JPMorgan facilitating around 20,000 unlawful sex acts, Liu alleged.
She said the bank only addressed its problematic client after Epstein’s high-profile arrest on sex trafficking charges and suicide in custody.
“This was a [cover your a–],” Liu said, arguing there was nothing to suggest JPMorgan had meaningfully reckoned with its role and responsibilities to combat human trafficking.
On top of compensatory damages, which the Virgin Islands lawyers said could assist victims in the future who haven’t come forward yet, the territory is seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief that would force the bank to comply with sex trafficking laws.
JPMorgan lawyer Felicia Ellsworth forcefully pushed back on Liu’s arguments, contending there wasn’t “a scintilla” of evidence the bank doesn’t comply with sex trafficking prevention laws. She argued the territory had no authority to enforce the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Scores of women have alleged Epstein abused them at his lavish properties worldwide, transporting them on the same planes he used to host former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Many of those who have come forward were from disadvantaged backgrounds and were as young as 14 when the abuse began.
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Epstein killed himself at age 66 in August 2019 inside the now-shuttered Metropolitan Correctional Center, about a month after his arrest on charges carrying life in prison.
The only person held criminally accountable for Epstein’s staggering abuse is Ghislaine Maxwell, his one-time accomplice who a jury found guilty in late 2021 of procuring and grooming his victims for at least a decade starting in the 1990s. She is serving a 20-year sentence.
In a separate case in June, JPMorgan agreed to shell out $290 million to at least 100 women victimized by Epstein in a settlement awaiting approval. A tentative $75 million settlement was reached in a similar lawsuit in June against Deutsche Bank. The banks are not expected to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlements, sources previously told the Daily News.
Rakoff said he would issue decisions on outstanding motions from both sides by September’s end.
Depending on how he rules, the case is set for trial on Oct. 23, which the judge described as “unmovable.”