'Orgy Island' to airplanes, Epstein's assets are up for grabs

What’s next for the Jeffrey Epstein investigation?

Former DOJ official Francey Hakes lays out all the questions that remain after the convicted sex offender’s death.

While many questions remain about disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein's worth – how he made his money, and what happens to his assets with his death – details are emerging about his assets, and where the alleged underage sex-trafficking operation took place.

Epstein, 66, died early Saturday in what officials have called an apparent suicide. Foremost among the assets he's left behind are two private islands in the Caribbean.

The first is the 75-acre Little St. James, which Epstein bought 21 years ago for just under $8 million. Located in the U.S. Virgin Islands and comprising five buildings and some 70 employees, Epstein gave the periphery of the stone home its own facelift after moving in – razing the natural greenery and installing palm trees that sway in the breeze alongside two American flags.

A view of Little St. James Island, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, a property owned by Jeffrey Epstein.
(AP, File)

On Tuesday, the quiet property – lawyers list it as now worth $63.8 million – could be glimpsed in drone video footage showing the FBI and NYPD raiding the home and seizing computers.

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According to permit records obtained by NBC News, while his high-powered lawyers in Florida were at work on a plea deal over charges around a decade ago, Epstein was seeking to have the interiors embellished with the likes of a Japanese bathhouse and a movie theater.

In 2016 – some eight years after he entered into the sweetheart plea deal with limited jail time and registered as a sex offender – Epstein upgraded with a second island, this one adding 165 acres at a cost of $18 million. Despite a stop-work order having been issued by the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources late last year for illegal construction, per the New York Post, work went on throughout this year.

Think amphitheaters and underwater offices, along with an odd blue-and-white-striped temple with a golden dome. Some reports asserted it was a music studio, while others allude to more sinister intent. Its value: $22.5 million.

Little St. James Island, one of the properties of financier Jeffrey Epstein, seen in an aerial view near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
(REUTERS/Marco Bello, File)

While Epstein is said to have referred to his parcels of paradise as extensions of his own identity – “Little St. Jeff’ and “Big St. Jeff” – the islands have in recent years been tagged with less-flattering and more ominous Internet monikers: “Orgy Island,” “Pedophile Island” and “Island of Sin,” to name a few.

But his property portfolio extended far beyond his personal parcels in the sea.

The financier also owned a luxe Beaux-Arts mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side – worth $56 million – and a 10,000-acre property in New Mexico he dubbed the “Zorro Ranch," previously owned by former Gov. Bruce King, with its own airport hangar, a stunning 27,000 square-foot pink-hued mansion and a price tag of $17.2 million.

Zorro Ranch, one of the properties of financier Jeffrey Epstein, seen in an aerial view near Stanley, N.M.
(REUTERS/Drone Base, File)

In addition, there's the El Brillo Way abode in Palm Beach, Fla., reportedly brimming with massage tables, nude photographs and an assortment of toys valued at $12.4 million. Then, too, there's the Paris apartment on Avenue Foch, in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, listed at $8.7 million.

Epstein had been returning from his Parisian digs to New York when the FBI arrested him on July 6 at a New Jersey airport, charging him with the sex trafficking of minors.

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On court documents, Epstein listed his official residence as the Virgin Islands – possibly to avoid routine check-ins with officials in New York and Florida, given his status as a registered sex offender, as established by his 2008 plea deal. A year earlier, Epstein pleaded guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor. He subsequently spent just over a year behind bars, with provisions to leave for work, and avoided federal sex-trafficking charges.

Jeffrey Epstein’s home in Manhattan, seen last month.
(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson, File)

Court filings from his lawyers showed that the convicted sex offender – often dubbed a billionaire – listed assets to the tune of little more than half that. In the weeks prior to his death, Epstein was documented as having $56.5 million in cash; more than $112 million in equities, $195 million in hedge funds and private equity; and a fixed income of $14.3 million, in addition to his properties.

There was no mention on the court documents of two Gulfstream jets he was said to have owned, or of the 200-seat Boeing 727-200, which earned the nickname “Lolita Express” – in reference to the famed Vladimir Nabokov novel about a middle-aged professor who seduces and sexually assaults a 12-year-old girl.

What fate awaits the Epstein empire of things?

While federal prosecutors had endeavored to seize the assets after his arrest as part of the criminal probe, that's now over; the criminal proceeding cannot be leveled against the deceased.

“The federal government can’t likely take anything from him because he wasn’t convicted of a crime and can’t be tried now that he’s dead. He enjoys the presumption of innocence forever because he can’t defend himself in a criminal trial,” criminal defense attorney Troy Slaten said. “He is most certainly, however, subject to civil actions aimed squarely at slicing up the assets in his estate.”

Indeed, the civil suits will now look to Epstein’s estate. Already, a decade ago, more than a dozen women reached undisclosed settlements against him in Florida.

But the renewed endeavor to claim his riches is likely to be fraught with complications and could drag on for many years, legal experts have said. It remained unclear whether he left a will, and the only known relatives of Epstein – who never married and had no known children – were his New York-based brother, Mark, a niece and a nephew.

“The personal representative and/or executor is in a tricky position in light of the various creditors and plaintiffs who have a financial interest in the estate. The individual handling the estate could face personal liability if he/she doesn’t manage the estate properly,” explained Doug Richards, of the Denver-based law firm Richards Carrington.

Jeffrey Epstein’s waterfront Palm Beach home at the end of an ungated, palm tree-lined street.
(Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images, File)

Several legal experts also underscored that the estate could run into monetary woes of its own; depending on how the civil litigation plays out.

“Depending on the outcome, the plaintiffs will have legal rights to portions of the estate,” California attorney Arash Hashemi speculated. “It is always a possibility … they would have to pay off debts and taxes first.”

Moreover, given Epstein’s global presence, it's not yet clear how many others good he possessed that haven't yet been documented.

“Usually high-net-worth individuals, like Epstein, have complicated estate plans to avoid things like probable and estate taxes and gift taxes,” Slaten explained. “The administrators of the Epstein estate are now on notice that there are likely many civil suits pending, so it will be interesting to see if they feel they are obligated to not dispose of assets pursuant to the terms of the trust (assuming there is one) until ordered by a court.”

“Give his entire estate to his victims. It’s the only justice they can get. And they deserve it,” Lisa Bloom, the high-profile attorney who is representing a number of Epstein accusers, tweeted this week. “And on behalf of the Epstein victims I represent, I intend to fight for it.”

There's also a website that surfaced this week – EpsteinHeirs.com

“If you believe you may have given birth to a child fathered by the late JEFFREY EPSTEIN who recently committed suicide, or that he may have been your biological father, please contact us immediately, without delay!!” a notice on the site read.

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Operated by Morse Genealogical Services, the firm claimed to be using court-qualified experts and appointed investigators to “locate missing heirs and persons” – and it came as little surprise to legal experts.

“It’s really a race to the courthouse at this point. Whoever gets a judgment first will be first in line to take from the assets. (But) the most equitable way to divide the estate is on a pro-rata basis depending on the size of any civil awards,” Slaten added. “And there are likely to be many, many civil actions. Some will be meritorious and some will not.

"I have faith in the judicial system to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

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