Since late last year, the Virgin Islands government has been fighting to hold JPMorgan Chase liable for allegedly knowingly profiting from Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking crimes.
On Tuesday afternoon, the bank pointed the finger right back at its “complicit” accuser.
“For two decades, and for long after JPMC exited Epstein as a client, the entity that most directly failed to protect public safety and most actively facilitated and benefited from Epstein’s continued criminal activity was the plaintiff in this case—the USVI government itself,” JPMorgan’s lead attorney Felicia Ellsworth wrote in a scathing court filing.
‘Quid pro quo’
Throughout 30 pages of heavily redacted arguments, JPMorgan argues that it should be able to cite Epstein’s allegedly “quid pro quo” relationship with the “highest ranking officials” within the Virgin Islands government as a defense.
“Epstein could have lived anywhere in the world,” the brief’s introduction notes. “He chose USVI. Discovery obtained in this case reveals why. For two decades, Epstein maintained a quid pro quo relationship with USVI’s highest ranking officials. He gave them money, advice, influence, and favors.”
Though the Virgin Islands government alleged that Epstein defrauded them, JPMorgan argues that they gave tax incentives as a reward for his largesse and looked “the other way when he walked through USVI airports accompanied by girls and young women.”
Epstein routinely maxed out on donations on three election cycles — adding up to $30,000 in total — to Democratic Rep. Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands delegate to Congress who argued at Trump’s second impeachment, according to the bank.
JPMorgan says that Plaskett visited Epstein at his New York townhouse less than a year before his arrest on sex trafficking charges in 2019.
In a statement, Plaskett reiterated past repudiations of Epstein.
“Jeffrey Epstein’s conduct was despicable,” Plaskett said. “As I’ve stated in the past, contributions made by Jeffrey Epstein to my campaign were donated to women and children-focused non-profits in the Virgin Islands.”
Plaskett did not respond to questions about the nature of her alleged meeting with Epstein at his New York townhouse.
The bank alleges that Epstein’s “primary conduit for spreading money and influence” throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands government was former first lady de Jong, the wife of a prior governor. De Jong managed Epstein’s Virgin Islands companies and received a salary, bonuses and other benefits from the predator, the brief states.
“Epstein got what he paid for,” the brief claims.
‘Made sure that no one asked too many questions’
JPMorgan alleges that Epstein exerted influence over the territory’s sex offender legislation and received lax monitoring.
“In sum, in exchange for Epstein’s cash and gifts, USVI made life easy for him,” the filing states. “The government mitigated any burdens from his sex offender status. And it made sure that no one asked too many questions about his transport and keeping of young girls on his island.”
When the Virgin Islands first sued JPMorgan, the attorney general’s office was led by Denise George, who was removed from her position within weeks by the territory’s Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. Local news outlets reported that George had not informed Bryan that she would file her enforcement action.
Bryan confirmed at the time that he “relieved” George of her duties — but wouldn’t disclose why.
“I relieved Denise George of her duties as attorney general this weekend,” Bryan told Law&Crime in a statement on Jan. 2, 2023. George’s deputy Carol Thomas-Jacobs subsequently took over her post as an acting AG, until Bryan nominated her successor, Ariel K. Smith, in April.
A spokesperson for the Virgin Islands government called JPMorgan’s motion an attempt to “shift blame.”
“JPMorgan Chase facilitated Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse, and should be held accountable for violating the law,” the spokesperson said. “This is an obvious attempt to shift blame away from JPMorgan Chase, which had a legal responsibility to report the evidence in its possession of Epstein’s human trafficking, and failed to do so.”
Late last year, the Virgin Islands AG signed a $105 million settlement with the executors of Epstein’s estate, plus part of the proceeds of the sale of Little St. James. The office then turned its attention to JPMorgan, releasing embarrassing messages among the 1,200 emails exchanged between Epstein and ex-JPMorgan senior executive Jes Staley between 2008 and 2012. Epstein survivors filed a separate proposed class action lawsuit, and the lead plaintiff accused Staley of sexual assault. He has not been criminally charged in connection to those allegations.
In addition to the Virgin Islands, Epstein also had a New York townhouse; a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida; a ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico; a guesthouse on billionaire Les Wexner’s Ohio estate; and an apartment in Paris, France.
Read JPMorgan’s motion here.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]