The apparent suicide Saturday of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the politically connected billionaire financier, came a day after unsealed court documents offered new details about some of the lurid allegations against him, including one connected to New Mexico.
A woman alleged that when she was a teenager, Epstein held her as a sex slave and ordered her to have sexual encounters with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and other powerful men.
Claims in the woman’s deposition were not corroborated in the unsealed civil case documents, and Richardson’s spokeswoman on Friday denied the allegation, saying the former governor had never met the woman, Virginia Giuffre.
Giuffre, who has claimed she was sexually assaulted by Epstein and others at his Zorro Ranch mansion in southern Santa Fe County, settled her suit against him in 2017. But other civil cases and criminal charges were pending against Epstein at the time of his death.
Authorities say Epstein, 66, killed himself by hanging early Saturday morning in a federal jail cell in Manhattan, where he was held on sex-trafficking charges involving dozens of girls in the early 2000s in New York and Florida.
An ongoing investigation
At the time of his death, the criminal counts against Epstein did not include allegations stemming from any incidents in New Mexico.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office told The New Mexican last month it had not conducted any investigations into alleged sex crimes at Zorro Ranch, and the state Department of Public Safety, in a response to a records request earlier this year, said it had no documents pertaining to Epstein.
But shortly after Epstein’s arrest in New York in early July, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he was launching an investigation into whether the financier committed any crimes in the state.
At the time, Balderas’ spokesman, Matt Baca, said, “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.”
In an email Saturday, Baca said the investigation will continue.
“While the Epstein suicide is a disturbing development,” Baca said, “the Office of the Attorney General will continue to review all allegations of criminal conduct connected to the Epstein case in New Mexico.”
A U.S. attorney in New York also indicated Saturday that the criminal investigation there would continue, particularly in light of a conspiracy charge against Epstein.
Stanley’s new neighbor
Epstein purchased his 10,000-acre property in the tiny community of Stanley from former New Mexico Gov. Bruce King in 1993. He built a 26,700-square-foot hilltop mansion at the site, along with an aircraft hangar and an airstrip.
According to a New York Times report late last month, Epstein had big plans for Zorro Ranch. Nearly two decades ago, the newspaper reported, he began telling prominent scientists and businessmen he intended to start a genetic project there in which he would impregnate up to 20 women over periods of time to seed the human race.
It didn’t appear that ever happened.
Sina Brush, who lives in the area, said in an interview in July that it was obvious when Epstein visited Zorro Ranch because the lights at his mansion would be visible for miles. That happened about every month and a half or two months, she said, adding she last saw the ranch lights blazing around early June.
Aside from a clash with Santa Fe County in 2000 over his property tax bill, however, Epstein kept a low profile in the area for several years.
Eventually, he began building ties, largely through campaign donations. Richardson was one of many New Mexico politicians with connections to the billionaire.
Under the name Zorro Trust, Epstein gave Richardson’s gubernatorial campaign $50,000 in both 2002 and 2006.
Epstein contributed $15,000 in 2006 to Gary King, the son of the former governor, when the younger King was running for attorney general. Epstein also gave $10,000 that year to Jim Baca, who ran in the Democratic primary for state land commissioner, and $2,000 to then-Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano.
But after Epstein was criminally charged that year in Florida with soliciting girls for sex, Richardson’s campaign and most of the others said they had donated his contributions to charity.
Epstein pleaded guilty in the Florida case in what turned out to be a secret deal between state and federal prosecutors that allowed him to avoid prosecution on more serious federal charges of sex crimes against children. His political contributions became more covert after that.
In 2014, Gary King, the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate, received five contributions totaling $35,000 from five companies in the U.S. Virgin Islands that turned out to be Epstein’s.
King returned the contributions after they were revealed by The New Mexican.
Girls in New Mexico?
Giuffre’s allegation of abuse at Zorro Ranch is one of two that have been made public.
Earlier this year, Maria Farmer of Kentucky, a former Epstein employee, claimed in an affidavit in a civil case against an attorney for Epstein, Alan Dershowitz, that the financier and a female friend had molested her sister at Zorro Ranch in 1996.
“She was only 15 at the time and they directed her take off all of her clothes and get on a massage table,” Farmer said in the affidavit. “[Ghislaine] Maxwell and Epstein then touched her inappropriately on the massage table.”
Epstein apparently had surrounded himself with teenage girls even before buying the Santa Fe County property.
In the early 1990s, longtime Santa Fe real estate agent Pat French, who was trying to find property in the area for the billionaire, stopped to visit him at his hotel room at Rancho Encantado and found it “filled with teenage girls,” she said in an interview last month.
“I just assumed they were his daughters,” she said. “I didn’t think much about it at the time.”
Epstein has no known children.
‘Little black book’
Epstein’s New Mexico connections were in the spotlight in 2015 when Gawker, an online news site, released a version of his “little black book,” with all the phone numbers redacted. The document had been stolen by one of Epstein’s butlers and had become evidence in a court case against the butler.
Among those listed are former Govs. Richardson and King; the real estate company of former state Rep. Rhonda King, Bruce King’s niece; John Kelly, who served as U.S. attorney for New Mexico through most of the 1990s; and the Santa Fe Institute.
Most noticeable was a list of women or girls with names like Sabrina, Rachel, Dianna, Linda and Nicki, all under the heading “Massage — New Mexico.”
Information in this story is from recent reports by New Mexican staff writer Steve Terrell.