Jordan Merson is representing victims of Jeffrey Epstein, the sex ring master who used his privately owned island of Little Saint James, off the coast of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands to sexually abuse children and girls.
Now, the local government is suing his estate for control of the land while also providing new details of how Epstein was able to get away with his alleged crimes for so long.
CBS News correspondent Mola Lenghi got a closer look at the secluded island where Epstein was accused of trafficking underage girls.
Epstein acquired Little Saint James in 1998, purchasing nearby Great Saint James 18 years later. Soon after that in 2010, the convicted pedophile registered as a sex offender in the Virgin Islands after serving time in Florida for procuring an underage girl for prostitution.
The current lawsuit seeks to confiscate his property as well as the islands, valued at $86 million.
The mysterious Little Saint James, which at first glance looks like a tropical getaway, is only accessible by helicopter or private boat. The seclusion appears to be intentionally designed to make it hard for government officials to monitor Epstein’s behavior, and even harder for the young girls allegedly brought there and looking to escape.
Authorities say the island was a place for Epstein to hide his criminal activity. “So he felt that he could basically be protected. He could get away with it,” said Denise George, Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
George became Attorney General just months before Epstein’s death by suicide last year, and it is her office that is now suing the estate.
Asked why it is now time to pursue charges against the late financier, George countered, “All I have to say is, why not now?”
“I cannot speak to what happened in the past,” she said. “What I do know is that because of Epstein’s wealth and power he was able to conceal a lot of this.”
George described the unique challenges posed in monitoring Epstein in the area. “They were stopped at the dock, and they were told ‘No, this is as far as you can go because this is my private property, and I would not allow you to go in any further’,” she said.
Court documents allege Epstein flew into St. Thomas’ only airport, Cyril E. King Airport.
“The area that the private jets fly in, it’s separate and apart from all of the commercial flights. And that also helps with the concealment,” George said.
From the airport, Epstein allegedly shuttled underage girls to the island using two helicopters. According to the complaint, “air traffic controllers and other airport personnel” reported seeing him with girls who appeared as young as 11 years old.
George said Epstein controlled all communication and transportation on Little Saint James, ensuring his alleged victims were essentially trapped.
“Remember, he owns a whole island,” she said. “So it wasn’t a situation where a child or a young woman would be able to just break away and run down the street to the nearest police station.”
The island is situated about two miles from St.Thomas, and the lawsuit states that one 15-year-old alleged victim was so desperate to escape that she tried to swim away.
Another of Epstein’s alleged victims, speaking to CBS News on the condition of anonymity, described what she said happened to her.
“He raped me. He brought me off the island to his office in St. Thomas and he actually raped me in his office. He also trapped me in his bedroom on the island where he had a gun strapped to his bedpost. I couldn’t leave. The only means of getting off the island was either helicopter or boat.”
When asked about George’s lawsuit, the victim said “I’m actually quite confused by it. Why now? It’s been a little bit, it’s late in the game, and to me it’s sort of last minute and, you know, if they knew about his you-know-what he was up to then why didn’t they try to stop him before?”
Attorney Jordan Merson represents several alleged victims suing Epstein’s estate. He has encouraged others to come forward and file complaints before the legal window closes.
“For those people who thing if that have more time than March 12, 2020, they may be wrong and they may never get their chance at justice if they do not come forward now,” Merson said.
In a statement to CBS News, Epstein’s estate refuted claims that it is trying to conceal any alleged criminal activities through a victim’s compensation fund it wants to set up. The statement said anyone participating in the program would have no obligation to keep their claim confidential.