FBI Wanted To Arrest Epstein In 2007. USAO Of Southern Florida Said No — And Epstein Wasn’t Arrested Until 12 Years Later

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña and FBI agents wanted to arrest convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in May 2007, according to a DOJ report released Thursday.
  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida reportedly directed Villafaña and the FBI to refrain from filing charges and arresting Epstein as the USAO had not “approved the indictment.”
  • Former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta offered Epstein a sweetheart deal in July 2007 that Villafaña told the DOJ “did not correspond” to DOJ policy and “didn’t make any sense.” 

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña and FBI agents wanted to arrest convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in May 2007 but refrained from doing so through the direction of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, according to a DOJ report.

The Department of Justice released a report Thursday that found “poor judgment” but no “misconduct” in former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta’s decision to scrap an investigation into Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring through a non-prosecution agreement.(RELATED: Tip Of The Iceberg: Feds Shut Down Epstein Investigation Though FBI Suspected Epstein Was Abusing Young Girls In Other Cities, Victims Lawyers Says)

Though Epstein was not arrested until July 2019, the report revealed that authorities prepared to charge and arrest him twelve years earlier but were stopped through the direction of the USAO. Marie Villafaña, a prosecutor assigned in 2006 to oversee the Epstein investigation, described clashes with her superiors over repeated meetings with Epstein’s lawyers that she feared would result in lenient charges.

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 10: The Metropolitan Correctional Facility, where Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Villafaña did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation for this story. The DCNF filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the full report last week after the DOJ said in a press release that “the Privacy Act prohibits the Department from releasing the full report publicly.”

FBI Develops Case Against Epstein

A Palm Beach County grand jury indicted Epstein for felony solicitation of prostitution on July 19, 2006 after Florida’s Palm Beach Police Department brought a case involving a 14-year-old girl giving Epstein a massage before the State Attorney’s Office, according to a summary of the report.

But the Palm Beach police chief and lead detective “were dissatisfied” with how the State Attorney’s Office handled the case, believing that the state grand jury did not fully address Epstein’s crimes, according to the report. They referred the case to the FBI, which brought it to Villafaña, according to ABC News.

Villafaña discovered additional Epstein victims as she worked with FBI agents to develop a case against Epstein, the publication reported. She drafted a 60-count federal indictment of Epstein in May 2007 for “substantive crimes against multiple victims” and sent her supervisors an 82-page prosecution memo, ABC News reported.

These supervisors included former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman, and chief of Miami’s criminal division Matthew Menchel. (RELATED: Epstein Attorney Had Prior Relationship With Prosecutor Who Helped Negotiate Sweetheart Deal: REPORT)

Sloman sent Villafaña’s findings to the head of the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section,  who said the work was “exhaustive,” “well done” and “correctly focused on the issues as we see them,” though more research was needed, ABC reported.

USAO Steps In Ahead Of Arrests

Villafaña and the FBI planned to file charges and arrest Epstein in the U.S. Virgin Islands on May 15, according to ABC, but their plans were thwarted by the USAO.  Former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Sloman told Villafaña that the USAO had not “approved the indictment” and ordered her not to “commit us to anything at this time,” according to ABC.

The report said that Acosta described Villafaña as rushing the filing of the charges, and Menchel said she was “out over her skis a little bit,” according to ABC.

Villafaña opposed Epstein’s attorneys’ repeated requests for in-person consultations throughout the next several months, the publication reported, but her supervisors overruled her concerns and reportedly viewed the meetings as “listening sessions” that could shed light on how Epstein’s attorneys planned to attack witnesses’ credibility.

Attorney Gloria Allred (R) and her client Teala Davies, who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein when she was a minor, hold a press conference in New York City on November 21, 2019, to announce the filing of a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate.  (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Villafaña worried that, like the state of Florida, her office would let Epstein’s attorneys persuade them not to file charges against Epstein, ABC reported. She also worried that holding off on charging Epstein would allow him to continue his alleged crimes.

“Villafaña told OPR that she ‘could not seem to get [her supervisors] to understand the seriousness of Epstein’s behavior and the fact that he was probably continuing to commit the behavior, and that there was a need to move with necessary speed,'” the report said, according to ABC.

Menchel disputed this claim in the DOJ report, according to ABC, saying that since Epstein was already “under a microscope” he did not think Epstein would continue his crimes.

But Villafaña told the DOJ that the early meetings were responsible for officials offering Epstein a sweetheart deal that “would never have been offered to anyone else” facing such serious charges.

Epstein’s Sweetheart Deal

The U.S. attorney’s office offered Epstein a deal on July 31, 2017: If Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges, serve a minimum of two years’ incarceration, and register as a sex offender, the U.S. attorney’s office would end its investigation.

The deal would also allow Epstein, four of his named co-conspirators, and “any potential co-conspirators” to avoid federal prosecution in the Southern District of Florida, according to the summary of the report.

“Victims were not informed of, or consulted about, a potential state resolution or the NPA prior to its signing,” the report summary said.

The NPA was signed Sept. 24, 2007.  (RELATED: ‘Poor Judgement’: DOJ Finds No ‘Misconduct’ In Prosecutor’s Decision To Scrap Investigation Into Epstein’s Child Sex Trafficking)

The DOJ report said Villafaña did not believe this resolution “made any sense” and that it “did not correspond” to DOJ policies.

“[I]t is inappropriate for you to enter into plea negotiations without consulting with me or the investigative agencies, and it is more inappropriate to make a plea offer that you know is completely unacceptable to the FBI, ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], the victims, and me,” she wrote in a July 2007 email to Menchel in which she requested meetings with Acosta and other senior prosecutors, according to ABC.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 14: A court officer stands outside a Manhattan courthouse where media have gathered for the arraignment hearing of Ghislaine Maxwell on July 14, 2020 in New York City.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Menchel rebuked her for her “tone and substance” of her email, saying that “it seriously calls your judgment into question,” in an email that Villafaña told the DOJ was intended to “intimidate” her. Menchel told the DOJ that she had a “history of resisting supervisory authority’ that warranted his strong response.”

“You may not dictate the dates and people you will meet with about this or any other case,” Menchel responded to her, ABC reported. “If [Acosta or Sloman] desire to meet with you, they will let you know. Nor will I direct Epstein’s lawyers to communicate only with you. If you want to work major cases in the district you must understand and accept the fact that there is a chain of command – something you disregard with great regularity.”

Menchel did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF. (RELATED: FBI Knew Of Allegations Against Ghislaine Maxwell As Early As 1996, Accuser Says. It Took 24 Years To Arrest Her)

Acosta resigned from his position in the Trump administration as labor secretary in 2019 amid scrutiny over how he handled the Epstein case. Epstein died of an apparent suicide in a federal jail in New York City in 2019 at the age of 66. His longtime companion Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been accused of involvement in Epstein’s crimes against young women, was arrested by the FBI in July.

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