Jeffrey Epstein's game

Part 2 of a shocking glimpse into the billionaire class.

A three-part series, now available for everyone to read.

If you haven’t already, please:


After this scene, the next time we see Senator Geary in Godfather II, he’s crying and confused, waking up in a whorehouse next to a bloody, dead prostitute. It’s gruesome. Michael Corleone’s lawyer Tom Hagen arrives on the scene and delivers a plan to save the Senator—essentially, he must become Michael Corleone’s friend. 

What a wonderful crime-family ally the Senator proves to be. The casino gaming license is only the beginning. Later he joins a Corleone delegation expanding to Cuba, helps identify a CIA agent who is a threat, and—most important—makes an impassioned speech in Washington D.C. hearings about how he knows Italian-Americans to be some of the most law-abiding of all Americans. The value is incalculable.

Senator Geary has to say all that, because the Corleone family can ruin his career, marriage, and life, at any time. They have dirt on him. The senator is terrified. 

We ended the last TrueHoop post a little far afield from our normal NBA beat, wondering how Jeffrey Epstein could afford the presumed hundreds of millions of dollars it costs to run his alleged international, grand-scale sex schemes. That’s hard to say, but we have to consider the possibility that this wasn’t primarily about sex. It may have been more like the Godfather, gaining leverage over powerful men. 

And boy did Epstein ever work hard to network with powerful people. Donations to Harvard, dinners with royalty, an address book full of glitterati and U.S. presidents. Vanity Fair reports Epstein had passing contact with, among others, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Bannon. There promise to be many more names. In ordering the unsealing of nearly 2,000 pages of new documents, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit mentioned allegations of sexual abuse by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister and other world leaders.” 

This guy was rubbing noses with names far grander than some U.S. Senator from Nevada.

At every stage of his career, Epstein has seemed to have wind at his back. Since when does the Dalton School (one of Manhattan’s ritziest, now in the midst of raising $100 million) hire teachers without college degrees? Since when does Bear Stearns hire underqualified teachers, and quickly make them partner despite a work record that reportedly attracted the attention of the SEC? Since when do hedge fund managers afford the finest in everything without being known to the various trading desks and brokers? Michelle Celarier of New York magazine talked to people who actually run hedge funds, who had been mystified by Epstein’s ascent for years: “Given this puzzling set of data points, the hedge-fund managers we spoke to leaned toward the theory that Epstein was running a blackmail scheme under the cover of a hedge fund.”

The detention memo from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York says that in searching Epstein’s Upper East Side home, they discovered “a vast trove of lewd photographs … some of the photographs referenced herein were discovered in a locked safe, in which law enforcement officers also found compact discs with hand-written labels including the following: ‘Young [Name] + [Name],’ ‘Misc nudes 1,’ and ‘Girl pics nude.’”

Epstein’s sexual appetites factor again and again in the affidavits from women and girls. But perhaps that was secondary to collecting more “+ [Name]” people.

In Russia, a country run by a former KGB agent, the practice of recording powerful people in compromising positions is well understood. It’s called kompromat, and evidently it has been repeatedly effective. For instance, look what happened to the closest thing Moscow has had to Robert Mueller. Depending who is on it, the video and photos can be worth way more than just cash.

In assessing the point of Epstein’s operation, the photos are important. If you’re trying to run a secret sex empire why would you take a picture ever, of anything? If you’re trying to gain leverage over powerful people, though, it matters. Who took the photos

One of the most damning public photos is the widely published shot of teenaged Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre) with Prince Andrew’s arm around her waist. In her affidavit, which you can read online, Roberts Giuffre says Epstein grabbed her camera and took that photo personally. 

In her affidavit, Roberts Giuffre explains the process by which she was prepared over years for the night in the photo, a narrative she supports with specific details and photographs of her own. The emphasis of how she was trained, managed, and incentivized feels particularly focused on maximizing Epstein’s ability to blackmail. 

Over the next few weeks, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell trained me to do what they wanted, including sexual activities and the use of sexual toys. The training was in New York and Florida, at Epstein’s mansions. It was basically every day and was like going to school. I also had to have sex with Epstein many times.

I was trained to be “everything a man wanted me to be.” It wasn’t just sexual training—they wanted me to be able to cater to all the needs of the men they were going to send me to. They said that they loved that I was very compliant and knew how to keep my mouth shut.

Epstein and Maxwell also told me that they wanted me to produce things for them in addition to performing sex on the men. They told me to pay attention to the details about what the men wanted, so I could report back to them.

From the same affidavit: 

  • “In addition to constantly finding underage girls to satisfy their personal desires, Epstein and Maxwell also got girls for Epstein’s friends and acquaintances. Epstein specifically told me that the reason for him doing this was so that they would ‘owe him,’ they would ‘be in his pocket,’ and he would ‘have something on them.’”

  • “Epstein also trafficked me for sexual purposes to many other powerful men, including politicians and powerful business executives. Epstein required me to describe the sexual events that I had with these men presumably so that he could potentially blackmail them. I am still very fearful of these men today.”

Roberts Giuffre says Epstein paid her a few hundred dollars when he had sex with her. But she goes into detail about when he paid her the most: when she was with Prince Andrew.

I chatted with Epstein about this the next day. I told him, “it went great.” Epstein said something to the effect of, “You did well. The Prince had fun.” I felt like I was being graded. It was horrible to have to recount all these events and have to try to meet all these needs and wants. I told Epstein about Andy’s sexual interests in feet. Epstein thought it was very funny. Epstein appeared to be collecting private information about Andy. When I got back from my trip, Epstein paid me more than he had paid me to be with anyone else—approximately $15,000. 

Who would bother to built a multi-million-dollar operation evidently designed to gain leverage over princes, while courting presidents? The word “intelligence” comes up in the speculative answers. Who can really benefit from the help of this or that prince? Governments! Which might seem tinfoil-hat at first. But what’s so interesting about this case is how consistently it appears to be wired into official channels. Rather than scared of the government, Epstein seems to command it.

Roberts Giuffre:

  • “If I left Epstein, he knew all kinds of powerful people. He could have had me killed or abducted, and I always knew he was capable of that if I did not obey him. He let me know that he knew many people in high places. Speaking about himself, he said ‘I can get away’ with things.” 

  • “[Jean Luc] Brunel ran some kind of modeling agency and appeared to have an arrangement with the U.S. Government where he could get passports or other travel documents for young girls. He would then bring these young girls (girls ranging in age from 12 to 24) to the United States for sexual purposes and farm them out to his friends, including Epstein.”

Roberts Giuffre says most of the photos weren’t taken by Epstein, however. They were taken by his right-hand woman Ghislaine Maxwell. 

Maxwell took pictures of many of the underage girls. These pictures were sexually explicit. Maxwell kept the pictures on the computers in the various houses. She also made hard copies of these images and displayed them in the various houses. Maxwell had large amounts of child pornography that she personally made.

This is where the intelligence allegations take off. Maxwell first made news when her father, a Rupert Murdoch rival named Robert Maxwell, was found dead, floating near his boat. In the aftermath, the word intelligence came up again and again. There were reports he was tied to the Mossad. In 2003, the Telegraph’s Lydia Bell wrote this:

However, his file, titled "Captain Ian Maxwell", at the National Archives in Kew, London, has been found to contain reports submitted to the Information Research Department (IRD), a covert unit of the Foreign Office, describing him as "a thoroughly bad character and almost certainly financed by Russia".

Geoffrey Goodman of the Guardian reported in 2003, that “Maxwell built up a tremendous catalogue of politically-influential contacts” and was a two-way conduit of information between Israeli and Soviet intelligence.  

After Maxwell’s death, he was found to have engaged in financial improprieties. Ghislaine moved to New York and began a life with Epstein. In the testimony of many victims, Maxwell, raised in high society with whispers of espionage, ran Epstein’s operation day to day, actively participating in every aspect, from paying girls to sleeping with them.

The U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida in charge of prosecuting Epstein back in 2007 was Alexander Acosta, who went on to become Labor Secretary. Vicky Ward writes on the Daily Beast:

“Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (The Labor Department had no comment when asked about this.)

It would have been so simple for Acosta (who held a press conference earlier this week to defend himself before eventually resigning) to deny intelligence was part of this story. But when asked about it, instead he said he couldn’t answer directly “because of our guidelines.”

In the movie version of this, Epstein would have $70,000 in cash, a fake passport, and some loose diamonds stashed in a safe in case of trouble—which he reportedly really did have

In the movie version, unseen forces would have a God-like ability to re-shape the world to achieve a certain outcome favoring the powers that be.

The Miami Herald’s heroic Epstein investigation includes an interactive map of the characters involved in Epstein’s prosecution. What about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? The team of prosecutors who failed to hang serious charges on Epstein? The Herald breaks down what happened to the careers of those lawyers. Some phrases: “named a federal magistrate judge,” “a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, the same firm as many of Epstein's attorneys,” “left the U.S. Attorney’s Office to represent several of Epstein’s co-conspirators,” “elevated to U.S. attorney,” and “appointed by President Trump as the U.S. secretary of labor.”

Meanwhile, another character is Joe Recarey: “The lead investigator in the Epstein case and a tireless advocate for Epstein's victims, Recarey retired from the force in 2013 after 23 years. In May, at the age of 50, Recarey fell ill and died shortly after he was interviewed by the Herald for this project.”

And in the movie version, when women came forward willing to testify, that secret agent would need to be extracted, whisked to safety, or protected from prosecution in some way. Anne Milgram is a long-time prosecutor who went on to become the attorney general of New Jersey. She is an experienced attorney often in the public eye, with the habit of picking words carefully. On Preet Bharara’s podcast, Stay Tuned, she was asked about a clause in Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement that granted immunity to his unindicted co-conspirators. “It’s insane,” says Milgram. “It’s bananas. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never done it. I can’t imagine a reason to do it.”

After saying, “this was a crooked deal and never should have been cut,” Milgram turns to her host, former U.S. Attorney Bharara, and says: “It’s really odd. Why would Acosta or anybody agree to that?”

“I don’t know.” He replies. He starts to say something, then laughs, and repeats. “I don’t know.”

I don’t know if we are living in the movie version, but we are certainly in a place where the most likely explanation is something unlikely. Weird big forces are at play. Whether that involves the FSB, CIA, Mossad, mafia, or whatever will, I imagine, be the subject of many books and movies to come.

What does all of this have to do with the NBA? Maybe nothing. But it has a lot to do with the very rich and powerful. When I started writing about this a couple of days ago I said that wherever the very rich and very powerful cavort, recruit, and collect women for sex appeal, there tends to be an NBA investor or two in the mix. 

This morning I googled Ghislaine Maxwell, one of the most intriguing characters in all this, and ran across a Ben Widdicombe article in Town and Country, and the deceased long-time governor of the Trail Blazers, Paul Allen, comes up:

“She was a big part of the jet-set,” said one person who has known her for 15 years. "I would see her in St. Barth’s, on Paul Allen’s yacht"—the Octopus, an infamous 414-foot floating pleasure palace then owned by the late Microsoft co-founder—“and at Heidi Klum’s Halloween party in New York.”

The friend described Ghislaine, now 57, as a chic brunette who was friendly, chatty, and part of a fashionable clique. Much like Epstein, her social circle also encompassed Britain’s Prince Andrew; a Palm Beach set which included Donald Trump; and the Clinton family—she even attended Chelsea Clinton’s 2010 wedding.

“But the thing is, to hang around those billionaire guys, you either have to be sleeping with them or you’re finding them girls. There is no in-between when you’re in that crowd,” said the friend, referring not to Ghislaine individually but the dark habits and rituals common at the highest echelons of power. “The other thing you can do is get them into parties. It’s the private jet equivalent of grass, gas or ass,” the source added, riffing on the ‘70s maxim of how hitchhikers could compensate drivers for their ride.

Thank you for subscribing to TrueHoop! In the days to come:

  • An offensive tweak that could help the Rockets get the most out of Russell Westbrook.

  • The fifth and final part of Brett Koremenos’s series on Tom Walkup.

  • And the conclusion of this series on Jeffrey Epstein.