Jeffrey Epstein’s private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands is getting renewed focus after the financier was arrested and charged with sex trafficking, with authorities disclosing that they found photographs of apparently underage girls in his New York mansion.
Epstein was accused of sexually abusing dozens of minors, some as young as 14. He pleaded not guilty on July 8.
The 66-year-old, who is reportedly a billionaire, bought Little St. James Island more than 20 years ago, erecting a compound and, later, a temple.
“Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,’” Kevin Goodrich, who is from nearby St. Thomas and operates boat charters, told the Associated Press. “It’s our dark corner.”
A number of people who worked for Epstein said they signed non-disclosure agreements and couldn’t talk; one who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that he saw some young women on the island but thought they were older than 18.
“When he was there, it was ‘keep to yourself and do your thing,’” the man said.
The island has been said to be 72 acres or 78 acres. Epstein, who reportedly bought the island for $12 million, himself calls it “Little St. Jeff’s,” according to the New York Times.
Around the time Epstein bought it, Julian Bicknell & Associates, an architecture firm, worked on creating designs for buildings there for Epstein and his associate, Ghislaine Maxwell.
— The_War_Economy (@The_War_Economy) November 22, 2017
The main house on the island was renovated in 2003 by Edward Tuttle, a designer, according to Vanity Fair. The Times reported that it was slated to have a Japanese bathhouse and a movie theater, among other amenities.
A temple was built on the island sometime between 2009 and 2013, with a use that has been widely speculated on.
Workers told AP that they told each other it was a music room that featured a grand piano and acoustic walls.
James Both, a contractor and engineer based in Chicago, examined pictures of the temple and told Business Insider that the wooden door appears to be designed to prevent people from exiting.
But seriously, what’s up with this weird temple thing on Jeffrey Epstein’s private island? pic.twitter.com/njxfg2HahN
— jon gabriel (@exjon) July 9, 2019
“It’s styled like what you might see on a castle, with what appears to be a reinforcing lock bar across the face,” he said. “What makes it peculiar is that if you wanted to keep people out, the bar would be placed inside the building, [but the] locking bar appears to be placed on the outside … as if it were intended to lock people in.”
Aerial pictures showed the temple sitting near the coast, with a dirt path leading around a hill down to a smaller structure, a possible second entrance and exit to the temple.
Both said it was likely a cistern or a caretaker’s shack.
Addressing theories that the temple had multiple stories, he added: “It is absolutely possible to install a dwelling and elevator underneath the structure.”
“If an elevator was built there, [there] would most likely be a record with the vendor who installed the elevator, as they typically require yearly maintenance and inspection,” he said. “A simple stairwell would be a better option if someone wanted to conceal their activities at the location.”
Epstein was believed to be primarily based on the island and even traveled there multiple times throughout 2010 despite being under house arrest, reported the Palm Beach Daily News.
Former president Bill Clinton was on the island at one point, according to Virginia Roberts, one of the women who accused Epstein of molesting her when she was a minor. She said she did not see Clinton having sex with anyone.
“I remember asking Jeffrey, ‘What’s Bill Clinton doing here?’ kind of thing, and he laughed it off and said, ‘Well, he owes me a favor,’” Roberts claimed.
Clinton has denied being on the island, though he admitted being on Epstein’s plane multiple times.
Cathy and Miles Alexander, who spent eight years managing the island, told the Daily Mail that girls went around the house topless or naked, eventually prompting them to leave his employ in 2007, a year before he pleaded guilty to solicitation of prostitution.
“I saw some girls who I thought were very young-looking—about 16 or 17 easily—and it bugged me because I have a daughter and, although she was in her 20s, I didn’t like the idea that another woman’s child was in that situation. I didn’t feel comfortable about it,” Cathy Alexander said.
“They looked like they had stepped out of an underwear catalog. They walked around with very few clothes on or lounged around by the pool with nothing on. It was like that most of the time. I was concerned about their ages. A few of them looked very young and I couldn’t help but wonder if their mothers knew where they were.”
Epstein was charged on July 8 with sexually assaulting dozens of underage girls at his New York and Florida residences, paying each hundreds of dollars, and sex trafficking by having them recruit other girls he could abuse.