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The Fantasist

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The police narrative has overtones of a man avoiding all connection or intimacy. For years, Epstein had had a companion in a woman who could take him on if any woman could: Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of Robert Maxwell, the British newspaper baron, a Jew born in Czechoslovakia, who died mysteriously off his yacht in 1991. The British tabloids say that Epstein reminded Maxwell of her father and that she brought him into a Continental world. The Broadway and movie producer Jonathan Farkas says he and his wife used to double-date with the couple. Maxwell spent time at the Palm Beach house, and the police narrative says that she even hired an assistant-cum-masseuse for Epstein. But that was five years ago, and the girl was 23, at a local college. Maxwell never showed up in all the surveillance, only her stationery.

Epstein’s activities seem to have devolved in recent years. Juan Alessi, his longtime houseman, told police that toward the end of his employment, the girls were “younger and younger,” and he often had to wash off vibrators and “a long rubber penis” left in the sink. The next houseman, Alfredo Rodriguez, said that he found the sex toys he had to wash “scattered on the floor.”

No need to worry about dirty laundry, if there’s someone to do it.

The U.S. attorney’s investigation put Epstein in a bind. If the Feds brought a case and he lost, he would be imprisoned for a mandatory minimum ten-year sentence. Given the choice, it appears that Epstein will not gamble on a trial but make a deal with the state attorney on the prostitution charge.

Not that he is likely to admit that he did anything wrong. Throughout his ordeal, Epstein maintained the air that there was nothing sordid about his actions. His wealth seems to have endowed him with utter shamelessness, the emperor’s new clothes with an erection. Even Alan Greenspan has lately raised the moral questions brought on by the gap between the rich and poor: The poor will begin to feel that the social contract was not made in good faith. Epstein’s friends say that on this matter, he has a philosophical position.

“Fundamentally,” Wolff says, “it’s about math. That on a macro level it inevitably happens that the rich get richer. And then at some level the rich get richer on a geometric basis. Jeffrey’s point is that this whole issue is—it’s just mathematics at this point. This is the nature of a successful economy. The more successful the economy is, and that would be the goal of everybody, a successful economy, the greater the discrepancy actually is.”

There is no better place to observe how Epstein’s mathematics work than Palm Beach. The only signs of life are crews of Spanish-speaking laborers on teetering ladders clipping the high hedges, not far from Bulgari and Valentino and Tiffany. It is a few miles on the other side of the bridge to where the girls came from, the shabby sprawl of West Palm Beach, with trailer parks, boys crouched on motor scooters, and pickup trucks under sun tents. Haley Robson’s house is on an unpaved road by an irrigation ditch. An attractive blonde in her forties answers the door wearing pistachio Capri pants, and promptly slams it. “We have absolutely no comment about the Epstein case.”

Driving home with their $500, Haley said to the 14-year-old that if they did this every Saturday they’d be rich, and it’s understandable that a teenager in West Palm Beach might feel that way. The coldest stories in the police narrative are about money and service. Maria Alessi, the previous houseman’s wife, said she had cleaned house and shopped for Epstein for eight years and never had a direct conversation with him. He made it clear that he did “not want to encounter the Alessis during his stay in Palm Beach.” One girl said that when she had sex with Epstein she closed her eyes and thought about cash. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, when this is over you’re getting so much money.”

Josè Lambiet says the case went forward in Palm Beach despite the efforts of the dream team because of community rage arising from the class issues in the case—Epstein found the girls not from his own fancy neighborhood but from the struggling suburbs.

He has never shown a glimmer of understanding that a high-school girl could be damaged by a powerful 50-year-old’s demands, or that some of the girls were already emotionally damaged. For someone who could dream anything, it seems a little small.


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