Counter-Human Trafficking Expert: Epstein targeted girls from broken homes
Last week, celebrity billionaire Jeff Epstein was arrested and charged with sex trafficking. It’s a major turn of events in a long criminal case that, until now, had been relatively fruitless.
We spoke with counter-human trafficking expert, Stephen Komorek. Komorek heads up Conflict International’s United States division.
A little background on Komorek’s dealings in the world of sex trafficking:
Mr. Komorek has worked with multiple Federal, State, and private human trafficking task forces.
“We operate in multiple jurisdictions across a number of countries,” Komorek said in an exclusive interview with Law Enforcement Today.
He is also a member of National Association for Missing and Exploited Children, holds multiple certifications in combating human trafficking and has done work alongside the FBI and other multi-national agencies and is a member of the World Association of Detectives.
Komorek says that predators like Epstein are going after the most vulnerable children, usually ones that are young and have suffered emotional trauma or physical abuse during their childhood.
“These types of people, they know what to look for,” he said. “Especially in the world of social media where people post everything about their lives. The fights they’ve had, their troubles, plans, innermost thoughts… it’s all out there.”
He went on to say that predators know their targets.
“People like Epstein are looking for susceptible parties. Young girls who have undergone abuse. Runaways. Others who came directly from the child welfare system. These are prime targets, and Epstein knew it.”
A shocking 85% of girls involved in sexual exploitation of children were previously in the child welfare system, as reported by the Department of Justice.
The targeted girls are often sucked in with promises of love and care, but those are false promises.
Komorek says the trafficker’s goal is to suck them in, then destroy hope.
“The first thing they do, whether they bring them in overseas or domestically, is reduce their connection to law enforcement. They take away their ability to go to the police, often by saying that they’ve already been paid off and wouldn’t help the girls even if they asked.”
Komorek said that the Pope said it best.
“Pope John Paul II said the opposite of love is not hate. It’s use. And that is the goal of these traffickers and child exploiters. They use these children and they exploit them. There is no love, even if that’s something that’s promised to them. This is the exact opposite of love.”
So who is Jeff Epstein? Let’s get some background.
He’s a close friend of the Clintons. He’s brought some of the Washington and Hollywood elite to his private island where he’s long been accused of trafficking minors. He’s dodged prosecution for years, arguably because of his wealth.
Epstein is now said to be in federal custody.
The arrest comes more than a decade after he first gained notoriety with serious accusations that he had paid dozens of girls for sexual massages in Florida and had trafficked girls on his private island.
Epstein, who is 66-years-old, dodged federal criminal charges in 2007 and 2008. That was a plea deal that was widely criticized and is once again being scrutinized in the #MeToo era.
Komorek says that this investigation would be a major operation, lasting years.
“An investigation like this will go on for years before you’ll ever hear anything about it. This would have taken numerous undercover agents, lots of law enforcement manpower, a true multi-national effort,” Komorek said.
The former hedge-fund manager pleaded guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting prostitution and served 13 months in a county lockup. He was forced to register as a sex offender, but his jail arrangement allowed him to get out of the Palm Beach County Stockade so he could work out of his office six days a week.
According to sources, Epstein was arrested last Saturday afternoon at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. He was taken into custody by federal agents after his private jet landed there.
We’re told Epstein was arrested under a sealed federal indictment and that he is now charged with one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
For years now, women who claim to have been his victims have railed against federal prosecutors for agreeing to a non-prosecution deal with him more than a decade ago.
A lawyer for two of the women, Jack Scarola, said he hadn’t been aware of the arrest… but wasn’t surprised.
“But given his extensive pattern of past criminal conduct and the apparent addictive nature of his aberrant behavior, an arrest comes as no surprise,” Scarola said.
Authorities said that in that Florida investigation, Epstein paid cash to dozens of girls, many as young as 14 or 15. He hired them to give him nude massages. Police say those massages often ended in masturbation, oral sex or rape.
They also said that Epstein asked the girls to recruit others to his property between 1999 and 2005, and he preyed on runaways or foster children.
One girl shared in a 2007 interview with the F.B.I. that at age 15, Epstein would give her $200 to give him massages both in her underwear and then nude. Authorities said the encounters became more and more sexual, and Epstein started getting her to bring other girls with her from a local strip club.
Epstein was protected from federal charges in a plea deal signed by the top federal prosecutor in Miami at the time, Alexander Acosta.
But in February, a Florida judge ruled that prosecutors led by Mr. Acosta violated federal law when they failed to disclose Mr. Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement to his victims.
Apparently that agreement was negotiated in secret – all while victims were told prosecutors were still pursuing a possible federal criminal case.
Acosta said it was a good thing, as the plea deal sent Epstein to jail and guaranteed that he would register as a sex offender.
The case came to light again after an investigative report by The Miami Herald in November quoted four of the victims, who are now adults, on the record for the first time.
Courtney Wild, who is now 31, was one of those victims.
“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless,” Ms. Wild told The Herald. “He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right.”
In total, investigators found more than 30 victims and the paper said it had found about 60.
Shortly after the judge’s decision in February, the Justice Department said it had opened an investigation into the non-prosecution agreement to look at whether prosecutors committed professional misconduct in their handling of the Epstein case.
I'm sickened that Jeff Epstein was convicted of sexually assaulting girls and, when he served as US Attorney, Alex Acosta undermined justice for these survivors. Sec. Acosta is unfit to serve in the cabinet. I’ve joined 67 of my colleagues in demanding his resignation. pic.twitter.com/8EwCDy9UYB
— Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) July 10, 2019
To add to the investigation, a federal appeals court Wednesday ordered that 167 documents in a lawsuit surrounding Epstein be unsealed.
Komorek finished by saying that more national attention is needed in the world of human trafficking… because it happens way more than we talk about.
“Make no mistake, this isn’t just a United States issue – it’s worldwide.”
The FBI is asking for anyone to come forth who has been a victim in this case. Contact _____ 1-800-CALL-FBI – or if you’d like to be discreet, you can also chat with an agent at humantrafficking.org, the national human trafficking website.