Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims demand freeze on estate assets

Victims joined with the Virgin Islands government to demand a freeze.

February 4, 2021, 5:00 PM

A group of more than two dozen alleged victims of deceased sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein joined with the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands in demanding an immediate freeze on the assets of the late financier's estate, according to a court filing on Friday in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The call for emergency court intervention comes a day after the administrator of an independent restitution fund for survivors of Epstein's sexual abuse announced the program was suspending compensation offers due to uncertainty about the future funding of the program by the estate.

"Given [the] news that the estate has no money to continue to operate the program in the fair and respectful way it agreed to, urgent action must be taken to protect any further injustice from occurring," the alleged victims' court filing states.

The Epstein estate was initially valued at over $630 million, but in the 18 months since his death in August 2019, the estimated worth of the assets has diminished to about $240 million, according to court records. So far, more than $55 million has been paid by the estate to alleged victims through the independent Epstein Victims' Compensation Program, which has received over 150 applications since it began operating last June.

"It is clear to anyone alive that Jeffrey Epstein caused damages far greater than the wealth he amassed," said Brad Edwards, a Florida attorney who represents the group of alleged victims. "Therefore, any reasonable and moral human being recognizes that all of his assets should go to the victims he abused."

As the victims' compensation program was being designed after Epstein's death in August 2019, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Denise George, sought and received assurances from the estate that there were sufficient assets to fully fund the program, and that there was no upper limit on the amount it could set aside to pay claims. Epstein maintained his primary residence since 2010 on Little St. James, one of two private islands Epstein owned off the east coast of St. Thomas.

Following the announcement of the suspension of compensation offers, George filed an emergency motion in the U.S. Virgin Islands probate court seeking the immediate asset freeze, including the estate's cash on hand. George contended in the court filing, which the victims joined on Friday, that the "failure to provide promised compensation for Epstein's victims is one entirely of the Estate's and its Co-Executors' making."

PHOTO: U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry, March 28, 2017, and obtained by Reuters, July 10, 2019.
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry, March 28, 2017, and obtained by Reuters, July 10, 2019.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services via Reuters, FILE

"My office's worst fears have been realized as we learned the Epstein Estate will not make its currently owed payment to the fund it claimed to have set up to compensate sexual abuse survivors and victims of Jeffrey Epstein," George said in a statement late Thursday. "The Estate has found its way to pay for lawyers, landscaping, and helicopter fees, but not the brave women who have stepped forward to participate in the compensation fund. It is, unconscionably, another promise made and broken by Epstein and, now, his Estate."

Dan Weiner, an attorney for the co-executors, told ABC News by email Friday that the attorney general's arguments for an asset freeze are "both factually and legally unsupportable."

"Many of the expenses the Attorney General now challenges -- including for the required upkeep of aircraft and residences -- are essential to maximizing their market value" for eventual sale, Weiner wrote.

The protocol of the victims' compensation program requires the estate to pay all eligible claims based solely on the administrator's determination and to supplement the available money for compensation from other funds in the estate when the account falls below a certain threshold.

But earlier this week, the estate informed Jordana H. Feldman, the program's independent administrator, that "it did not have sufficient liquidity to fully satisfy the most recent request for replenishment and that it could not predict when additional liquidity would be secured," according to a statement from Feldman.

Feldman told ABC News she made the decision to suspend offers because the people submitting claims deserve "transparency."

"The victims need to know of this change in the way that the program is operating. They cannot be kept in the dark about it," she said.

The program will continue accepting and evaluating claims during the period of suspension, but no compensation offers will be made until after the filing deadline next month or until Feldman is certain that claims can be paid on time and in full.

"Although I sincerely regret having to take this action, I have concluded that it is necessary to protect the interests of eligible claimants who have not yet resolved their claims through the program," Feldman said in her statement.

The estate's co-executors, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, an attorney and an accountant, each worked with Epstein and his myriad companies and nonprofits for many years. Epstein selected the pair as co-executors in a will he drafted in jail two days before his death.

Weiner, the attorney representing the co-executors, told ABC News that the estate's efforts to liquidate Epstein's assets -- including private aircraft and high-end residential properties in the U.S. and abroad -- had been "hampered by the now nearly-year-long coronavirus pandemic and its enormous adverse effect on local and global economies."

The estate has also expended "substantial funds in defending against multiple civil lawsuits and administrative proceedings," Weiner wrote.

More than two dozen women filed civil lawsuits against the estate after Epstein's death. Several of those cases were voluntarily dismissed after the alleged abuse survivors accepted compensation offers from the program and all of the remaining lawsuits have been placed on hold while the women seek resolution of claims through the program.

The estate has so far funded the program with $87 million and $55 million has been paid out to an undisclosed number of victims, according to Weiner, who contended that the program has been operated with "remarkable efficiency."

"The co-executors continue to seek to liquidate assets of the estate, in the full expectation that the program can soon fully resume its regular operations" Weiner wrote.

Edwards, who represents several dozen women who have submitted claims to the fund, called for the court to step in on an emergency basis to take control over the estate and to "prohibit further injustice."

"My problem is that [the co-executors of the estate] have had plenty of time to make arrangements to ensure this didn't happen," he said. "But they let it happen anyway. If it wasn't intentional then it is evidence of unprecedented irresponsibility. My clients feel victimized and are rightfully furious."

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