Billionaire financier charged in abuse of girls

FILE - In this July 30, 2008 file photo, Jeffrey Epstein, center, appears in court in West Palm Beach, Fla. The wealthy financier and convicted sex offender has been arrested in New York on sex trafficking charges. Two law enforcement officials said Epstein was taken into federal custody Saturday, July 6, 2019, on charges involving sex-trafficking allegations that date to the 2000s. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via AP, File)

State Attorney General Hector Balderas said Thursday he is investigating whether crimes were committed in New Mexico by billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who owns a hilltop mansion on a ranch in southern Santa Fe County.

Epstein, 66, was arraigned this week in federal court in New York on charges of sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors. The charges came more than a decade after Epstein accepted a plea deal with prosecutors in Florida, where he was accused of recruiting dozens of girls, some as young as 13, for massages and sex at his home in Palm Beach.

The federal prosecutor involved in the earlier case was Alex Acosta, now President Donald Trump’s labor secretary, who has come under fire by victims, politicians and others for approving what critics consider an unusually lenient plea deal.

Balderas spokesman Matt Baca said Thursday, “The Office of the Attorney General has been in contact with survivors and is investigating this horrific matter. We have contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and will be forwarding additional evidence to federal authorities for proper action.”

Baca said he couldn’t make any further comments on the investigation, the alleged victims or their allegations concerning Epstein.

A spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said this week the agency has not conducted any investigations of alleged sex crimes at the ranch.

Earlier this year, The New Mexican requested the state Public Safety Department provide all documents pertaining to Epstein; the records custodian for the department said there weren’t any.

While his new indictment only mentions Epstein’s homes in New York and Florida as locations of his alleged crimes, some women have claimed sexual abuse took place at his Zorro Ranch near Stanley.

In April, a Kentucky woman named Maria Farmer filed an affidavit in a civil case against Epstein attorney Alan Dershowitz that said, “During the summer of 1996, Epstein and [Epstein friend and alleged procurer Ghislaine] Maxwell flew my younger sister to their ranch in New Mexico. She was only 15 at the time and they directed her take off all of her clothes and get on a massage table. Maxwell and Epstein then touched her inappropriately on the massage table.”

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the plaintiff in the civil suit against Dershowitz, said she was abused by the lawyer as well as Epstein at the ranch when she was a teenager. Dershowitz has furiously denied her allegations.

In a news release Monday, the federal prosecutor in New York said that “between 2002 through 2005, Epstein sexually exploited and abused dozens of underage girls by enticing them to engage in sex acts with him in exchange for money.” Some of the victims were said to be as young as 14.

Epstein purchased the land for his Stanley ranch from former Gov. Bruce King in 1993.