In death, as in life, Jeffrey Epstein remains an enigma. But the New York Times on Thursday shed a little light on one of the most mysterious parts of the late financier’s life: his vast wealth.
In the weeks after Epstein’s arrest in July and suicide in August, speculation about how he made his money ran rampant. Did he run a Ponzi scheme? Was he engaged in a blackmail racket? Was it something much worse?
The Times provides a few answers, along with some eye-popping numbers, the most notable of which is $200 million. That’s how much revenue Epstein pulled into a new company with a novel mission that he launched four years after his 2008 guilty plea for soliciting prostitution from underage girls, according to the paper.
Epstein started the company, Southern Trust, in 2012 with the goal of building a DNA search engine to identify genetic predispositions to disease. In a 2012 testimony to the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority, which Epstein provided in an attempt to secure tax breaks, he said the company “will be basically organizing mathematical algorithms so that if I want to know what my predisposition is for cancer we can now have my genes specifically sequenced,” according to documents obtained by Business Insider.
Experts say the plan was absurd, but that didn’t stop Southern Trust from raking in cash. By 2017, the company reported $391 million in assets and $43 million in annual revenue. Though the documents obtained by the Times provide numbers, they do not provide names. It is not known who was pumping cash into the company with a dubious mission run by a convicted sex offender.
In addition to revealing just how well Epstein was able to bounce back from getting caught paying underage girls for sex, the documents provide some details on his finances from before his first run-in with the law. Financial Trust, Epstein’s money-management firm for billionaire clients, raked in as much as $108 million annually in net income, the Times reports. That came in 2004, when the firm’s assets peaked at $563 million. As Epstein’s legal troubles began, the firm collapsed. In 2008, shopping-mall manganate Les Wexner, Eptein’s only well-known client, cut ties with him.
Over the next few years, Financial Trust floundered. But in 2012, after Epstein had already been welcomed back into high society, he emerged with his new company that quickly began raking in millions.