'Serious irregularities' at Epstein jail as US vows to hunt any co-conspirators
Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his cell on Saturday while awaiting trial on federal charges he trafficked underage girls for sex.
NEW YORK - US Attorney General Bill Barr said on Monday there were "serious irregularities" at the jail where Jeffrey Epstein died of an apparent suicide, and pledged to pursue any co-conspirators in the sex trafficking case.
"I was appalled and indeed the whole department was, and frankly angry, to learn of the Metropolitan Correctional Center's failure to adequately secure this prison," Barr told reporters.
"We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.
"The FBI and office of the inspector general are doing just that. We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability," he added.
Barr's comments came after media reports said Epstein (66) had been taken off suicide watch following an apparent attempt to take his own life last month.
US newspapers also reported that prison guards were working overtime due to major staff shortages at the facility and that Epstein had been left without a cellmate, which was against protocol.
Epstein, a convicted paedophile who hobnobbed with countless politicians and celebrities over the years, was found dead in his cell on Saturday while awaiting trial on federal charges he trafficked underage girls for sex.
The discovery came a day after a court released documents in which one of Epstein's alleged victims said she was forced to have sex with well-known American political and business personalities.
Even though Epstein's death ended his criminal prosecution, Barr said prosecutors would pursue cases against anyone else involved in his alleged crimes.
"Let me assure you this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it," he said.
Epstein had been charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
Prosecutors said Epstein sexually exploited dozens of underage teens, some as young as 14, at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.
The young women were paid hundreds of dollars in cash to massage him, perform sexual acts and to recruit other girls, prosecutors alleged.
Epstein, who faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted, denied the charges.
In testimony released on Friday, alleged victim Virginia Giuffre said she was used as a "sex slave" by Epstein and farmed out to some of his high-profile associates.
Giuffre, now 36, has alleged she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew, former US Senator and architect of the Northern Irish peace deal George Mitchell, ex-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and American celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
They have all strenuously denied the allegations.
Giuffre says she was recruited and abused by Epstein's friend Ghislaine Maxwell, an English socialite whose father was former British newspaper baron Robert Maxwell. Maxwell has accused Giuffre of being a liar.
Giuffre also says she was sent to a French businessman. Two French government ministers called for an investigation on Monday.
Epstein, whose friends also included Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, had been convicted in 2008 in a Florida state court of paying young girls for sexual massages at his Palm Beach mansion.
Epstein served just 13 months in jail over the Florida charges a decade ago under a plea deal struck by the then federal prosecutor in the state, Alex Acosta, who was forced to resign as US labour secretary last month over the issue.