Woman who says Epstein groomed her for sex at 14 sues his estate

A New York woman who said Jeffrey Epstein groomed her for sex starting when she was 14 and then raped her a year later sued his estate Wednesday, one of many possible lawsuits that his estate may face after his death by an apparent suicide.

>>Amy Julia HarrisThe New York Times
Published : 15 August 2019, 02:36 PM
Updated : 15 August 2019, 02:42 PM

While Epstein’s death ended a federal criminal prosecution on child sex trafficking charges, his estate may still have to defend against civil suits. He was believed to have been worth at least $500 million.

Other women who have said they were victimised by Epstein said they planned to file lawsuits, and a new state law in New York that expands the amount of time that sexual abuse victims can sue could open the door to more claims.

Epstein, 66, died Saturday after he hanged himself in a Manhattan federal jail where he had been held since his arrest in early July, authorities said.

In her lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jennifer Araoz said she was recruited by an unnamed woman outside her Manhattan high school in 2001 before meeting Epstein and giving him erotic massages once or twice a week in his Upper East Side town house.

In 2002, about a year after they met, Epstein pulled Araoz on top of him during a massage and raped her, according to the lawsuit. She did not visit his town house again, she said.

His lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Araoz also sued women she said helped Epstein, including Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime confidante and the daughter of Robert Maxwell, a British publishing magnate, and three unnamed household staffers: Epstein’s secretary, his maid and a woman she called “the recruiter.”

Dan Kaiser, Araoz’s lawyer, said Epstein relied on associates to feed him a pipeline of underage girls. While his client did not interact directly with Maxwell at the townhouse, lawyers included her because she was “one of the center spokes of this conspiracy.”

Maxwell has been accused by numerous women of recruiting girls and women, instructing them on how to please Epstein and sometimes participating in sexual acts herself.

Maxwell’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment. In the past, she has emphatically denied accusations that she participated in sex trafficking or recruited underage girls.

Araoz, who is now 32, first went public with her allegations in an interview with NBC News last month, after Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on the federal charges. She appeared to be the first person to sue Epstein’s estate under the New York law passed this year.

The law, called the Child Victims Act, expands the amount of time that prosecutors can file sexual abuse charges and victims can sue for abuse that occurred when they were a minor.

Crucially, the law created a one-year “look-back window,” during which claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived. That window opened Wednesday.

Araoz’s attorneys said they planned to target Epstein’s assets in this suit, which include his properties in New York, Florida and the US Virgin Islands.

In her lawsuit, Araoz said she was approached by the unnamed “recruiter” — whom she described as a brunette — outside Talent Unlimited High School, where she was a freshman.

Araoz, who was raised in modest means by a single mother in Queens, said she confided in the woman about the recent death of her father from AIDS. She and the woman met for several weeks before meeting Epstein in his townhouse a few blocks from her school on the Upper East Side, the suit said.

The lawsuit contained remarkable details about the home: Many rooms had elaborate murals painted on the ceilings, and there was a trophy room filled with exotic animals, including a stuffed giraffe. In Epstein’s master bathroom, prosthetic breasts had been mounted on the wall which he could “look at or play with while in the bathtub,” the lawsuit said.

During a later visit, alone, Araoz was led by Epstein to his “favorite room” in the house, a large massage room on an upper floor with a blue ceiling painted with clouds and angels.

Epstein then asked her to take off her top, began fondling her breasts and asked her to give him a massage. Soon, she was coerced into giving him erotic massages once or twice a week, wearing only her underwear, the lawsuit said.

Epstein would masturbate and touch her breasts, then flatter and reward Araoz with $300 in cash, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan. A maid would leave the money in a drawer in the massage room, according to the lawsuit, and as Epstein left, he would tell her he had given her something to help her family.

In the fall of 2002, the lawsuit said, Epstein told her he wanted to try something different. He instructed her to take off her underwear and climb atop him to give him a massage. She initially resisted, but Epstein told her that he “loved her and cared for her,” so she complied. He then raped her, according to the lawsuit.

c.2019 New York Times News Service

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher