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The FBI continues to ignore Jeffrey Epstein's victims even after reaching $139 million settlement for botched Larry Nassar investigation

Jacob Shamsian   

The FBI continues to ignore Jeffrey Epstein's victims even after reaching $139 million settlement for botched Larry Nassar investigation
  • The Justice Department settled over 100 claims from victims of Larry Nassar for $138.7 million.
  • But it's ignored claims from Jeffrey Epstein victims, who say law enforcement failed to protect them.

This week, the Justice Department agreed to a mammoth $138.7 million settlement to resolve more than 100 claims brought by accusers of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor.

It was announced nearly three years after the Justice Department's internal watchdog found that the FBI botched its handling of its investigation into Nassar, who has been the subject of hundreds of sexual abuse claims and is currently serving over a century in prison sentences after being convicted of sexual assault and child pornography charges.

But the FBI seems less interested in resolving claims from victims of Jeffrey Epstein.

Jordan Merson, an attorney representing about 30 of Epstein's victims in claims against the FBI, told Business Insider that the Justice Department has so far turned a blind eye to his clients.

"We are happy that the FBI has resolved those cases so that the Nassar victims can have that sense of accountability, responsibility, and justice and try to get some peace moving forward," Merson told Business Insider. "But it's curious as to why the FBI won't do the same thing in this case, won't allow these women who have bravely come forward to get that accountability, responsibility, and justice."

Merson filed the lawsuit, initially on behalf of 12 Epstein accusers, against the FBI in February. It alleges the law enforcement agency knew about the well-connected financier's serial sexual abuse of girls since at least the mid-1990s — and did nothing to stop him.

The agency ignored numerous tips and pleas from victims as early as the 1990s, according to the lawsuit. And the FBI also failed to act when visas and passports were issued for girls who flew on his plane — actions that should have required background checks, the lawsuit alleges.

Representatives for the Justice Department didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment Friday.

"Epstein orchestrated an illegal sex trafficking ring for the elite and the FBI failed to adequately investigate the abuse, failed to interview the victims, failed to investigate the crimes and did not follow routine procedure or offer victim assistance notwithstanding credible reports and tips," the lawsuit alleges. "The FBI sat back while Epstein and his co-conspirators sexually abused Jane Does 1-12."

The DOJ concluded it botched an earlier Epstein investigation

In 2019, Epstein killed himself in jail while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York.

Years earlier, in 2007, he reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Florida that allowed him to serve an insubstantial sentence on a prostitution charge, even though law enforcement officials believed at the time that he had sexually abused dozens of girls. The deal was widely recognized as a corrupt bargain between Epstein's lawyers and then-US Attorney Alexander Acosta, who later resigned as labor secretary in Donald Trump's cabinet following an investigation into the agreement by the Miami Herald.

(The unusual plea agreement could also end up nullifying the sex-trafficking conviction of Epstein's associate Ghislaine Maxwell.)

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility later concluded that Acosta exercised "poor judgment" with the agreement, which was also kept secret from Epstein's victims. And in December, US Senators Cory Booker and Marsha Blackburn pressed FBI Director Christopher Wray on "getting to the bottom" of the scope of Epstein's sex trafficking and the failures of the FBI to investigate his accusers' claims.

Wray told the senators that it had "been a while since I looked at the specific case" and that he would "figure out if there's more information we can provide" with his team.

But Merson told Business Insider that Wray has been uninterested in resolving claims from Epstein's victims, even though it's been nearly a year since he filed administrative claims against the FBI.

"The FBI has so far shown no interest in resolving these cases amicably," Merson said. "And it makes you scratch your head. Like, why is that? And what about this case? Why are they out these women who have come forward with claims against Jeffrey Epstein and the FBI's role?"

In addition to the FBI's failures in investigating their sex crimes, Epstein and Nassar are connected in another way: While in jail, Epstein attempted to send Nassar a letter.

It was returned to the sender, and the contents have not been made public.

Merson's case is part of a spate of lawsuits seeking to hold government agencies and corporations accountable for allegedly facilitating Epstein's sexual abuse. His firm is also involved with a lawsuit against the US Virgin Islands, claiming the territory and its politicians helped Epstein traffic girls to one of his private islands for sex.

A compensation program formed by Epstein's estate after his death identified 136 different victims, while later litigation put the number closer to 200.

Merson's clients initially filed Standard Form 95 claims with the FBI — which offers federal agencies the chance to resolve claims efficiently and quietly, and serves as a precursor to a lawsuit if they don't — in May 2023. But the Justice Department, while not denying wrongdoing, hasn't engaged in settlement talks, he said.

Since filing the lawsuit in February, Merson has more than doubled the number of clients with claims against the law enforcement agency for failing to stop Epstein.

He said, "It's confusing and confounding" that the FBI isn't addressing the claims of Epstein's victims with the same urgency it gave Nassar's.

"Why won't the FBI do the right thing for sexual abuse survivors of Jeffrey Epstein?" Merson said.

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