Epstein sought to pay off potential witnesses, U.S. prosecutors say

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein (C) appears in court where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2008. Picture taken July 30, 2008. Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via REUTERS. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL OUT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jailed American financier Jeffrey Epstein made payments to two potential witnesses seeking to influence them in the child sex trafficking case against him late last year, prosecutors said late on Friday.

In a filing in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors said Epstein wired a total of $350,000 to the two individuals, who were not named. They said they learned of the payments through records they obtained from a financial institution, which was not identified.

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

Epstein, 66, was arrested on July 6 at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, where he had returned on his private plane from Paris. He has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy and could face up to 45 years in prison.

According to an indictment, Epstein arranged for girls under the age of 18 to perform nude “massages” and other sex acts for him in his New York and Florida homes, and paid some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005.

Epstein had faced similar charges in 2007, but negotiated a deal to avoid federal prosecution and plead guilty to a single Florida state prostitution charge.

In a court filing on Thursday, Epstein asked to be allowed to await trial under house arrest in his Manhattan mansion, offering to pay for private armed security.

In Friday’s filing, however, prosecutors called Epstein “unrepentant and unreformed” and said his payments to possible witnesses, along with the risk he would use his wealth to flee the country, warranted keeping him behind bars.

Prosecutors said Epstein paid $100,000 in November to a person identified in his 2007 non-prosecution agreement as a possible co-conspirator. They said he paid $250,000 in December to another person identified in the agreement as a possible co-conspirator and employee.

The payments were made shortly after the Miami Herald began publishing a series of articles about Epstein, who was known for socializing with politicians and royalty.

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