This week a new four-part true crime docuseries dropped on Netflix, exploring one of the most high profile criminal cases of last year – that of Jeffrey Epstein.
The programme takes a detailed look at the disturbing accusations levelled against the billionaire businessman, who was a convicted sex offender and was in the process of being charged with federal crimes before he was found dead in his jail cell last August.
While many are aware of the charges against him and his status as one of the richest men in the US, less people know quite how he made his money in the first place – so we’ve answered those questions below…
How did Jeffrey Epstein make his money?
The second episode of Filthy Rich charts the billionaire’s rise to power in some detail, outlining his journey from his working class upbringing in Coney Island to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest men.
The episode shows how Epstein left college after attending for two years and sought a career on Wall Street, following a brief spell teaching at a prestigious Manhattan school, The Dalton School.
His first job in the world of finance came at investment bank Bear Stearns, where he reported to a trader named Alan “Ace” Greenberg and was quickly identified as a rising star – soon becoming a limited partner and, when it was discovered he had lied on his CV, being given a second chance by the higher ups in the company.
However, after accruing a couple of years experience at the bank, Epstein quietly left under slightly suspicious circumstances, purportedly after breaking some rules.
As is explored in the documentary, some of those who worked alongside and knew him during this time noted that he was a mysterious figure, with Fox Business senior correspondent Charles Gasparino saying, “I’ve been covering Wall Street since at least 1991. You know, Jeffrey Epstein was always someone whose name popped up, but couldn’t really nail it down. He was a cipher.
“People I know on Wall Street leave trails. His trail was elusive. So, it was just sort of odd that there was this guy that people talked about a lot that didn’t have much of a footprint in the investment world.”
After his departure from Bear Stearns, Epstein met Steven Hoffenberg, who was then CEO at Towers Financial Corporation, and found employment there – which Hoffenberg admits in Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich that he “deeply regrets”.
Hoffenberg claims that he was aware that Epstein had cheated and stolen money on his expense account in his previous employment – and that this appealed to him at the time because his company was running a Ponzi scheme, exaggerating the company’s value using false bank statements in a bid to bring investors on board.
The illegal scheme was a huge success, and Hoffenberg and Epstein made millions of the back of it – with Hoffenberg later being convicted of fraud and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Another phase of Epstein’s career which saw him accrue his wealth was the alliance he formed with Les Wexner, chief of L Brands (which owns, among others, Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch). Epstein was given power of attorney over Wexner’s financial affairs, although their partnership did not stay rosy, with Wexner accusing Epstein of misappropriating in excess of $46 million of his funds and cutting ties with the financier in 2007.
In essence, then, he is alleged to have stolen money from Wexner, with director Lisa Bryant telling Entertainment Weekly, “As we outlined in the series, his one main and possibly only client was Leslie Wexner, and he managed to ingrain himself in his life, and I think he was duped by him as well.
“As we learned, he stole money right out from under him — a man who is rich and powerful in his own right. But Epstein managed to steal him blind.”
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Epstein’s wealth was also boosted by his property investments over the years – he owned mansions across the US and also owned the private island Little Saint James in the Virgin Islands, where much of his criminal behaviour is alleged to have occurred.
So Epstein’s wealth came from numerous sources – his ability to swindle himself into Wall Street, his involvement in illegal Ponzi schemes, and, allegedly, the outright stealing of absurd amounts of money, chief amongst them.