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Two women tried to expose Jeffrey Epstein three decades ago. Why didn’t the FBI stop him?

A victim of Ghislaine Maxwell has said she hopes more information will emerge about how the British socialite and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein were able to abuse young girls (Gabriele Holtermann/PA) (PA Wire)
A victim of Ghislaine Maxwell has said she hopes more information will emerge about how the British socialite and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein were able to abuse young girls (Gabriele Holtermann/PA) (PA Wire)

Annie Farmer knew the answers she’d been looking for nearly three decades would not magically appear in the more than 4,000 pages of Jeffrey Epstein documents unsealed this month. But she hoped she might get some semblance of an explanation. Because Annie wasn’t just a victim of Epstein — she was a whistleblower. After being molested as a teenager by Epstein and his associate, convicted child abuser Ghislaine Maxwell, her sister reported what they knew to the FBI. They expected a full-scale investigation. What they got was ten years of silence.

Annie followed the unsealing of the Epstein documents in New York from a distance — more than a thousand miles away, in a different state where she’s created a life far removed from the events she’s recounted to investigators, journalists and in court countless times.

“It can feel really tiring,” she tells The Independent over the phone. “I was glad to hear that these documents were being unsealed and there was going to be a little bit more to be shed on some of the players involved, but it was also something I was trying not to focus on too much.”

Annie was introduced to Epstein and Maxwell by her older sister Maria, a New York City-based artist whom Epstein had hired to do artwork. Under the guise that he wanted to support Annie’s education, Epstein invited the then-16-year-old to his ranch in Santa Fe in 1996.

There, Annie was molested by Maxwell and Epstein after they pressured her to have a topless “massage.” At night, Epstein curled up in bed behind the terrified teen — a scene she later described while testifying in Maxwell’s 2021 trial. Months later, her sister Maria was also assaulted at his New York City townhouse. When Maria learned that Annie had been similarly abused, she reported Epstein to the FBI.

Twenty-eight years after Maria first contacted federal authorities — only for the report to be buried for a decade before Epstein’s Florida investigation— and twenty-two since the Farmer sisters first came forward with their story to the media — for a Vanity Fair story that was eventually killed — the full extent of Epstein’s crimes is still unravelling. But while the public attention has been largely placed on the prominent names linked to Epstein and the scandalous revelations in the last batch of unredacted documents, core questions about the way federal investigators essentially ignored the Farmer sisters’ reports have yet to be answered.

“There’s been sensational aspects of the case and a lot of focus on who’s been on what plane, on what date and what does that mean,” Annie said. “But we still haven’t had any answers in terms of: Why was that FBI report not followed up on? Why was nothing done earlier to stop him?”

An ‘investigation’ that took 10 years — and bore no federal charges

The first indication Maria had that the FBI even filed a case for her complaint was in 2006, when agents showed up at her door following the initial investigation by the Palm Beach Police Department into Epstein’s sex trafficking ring.

Epstein was only charged at the state level, landing a plea deal that many saw as an insult to his many victims. The paedophile’s 2008 secret “sweetheart” deal allowed him to serve a short 13-month sentence in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Stockade, which he was allowed to leave and return to every day so he could “work” at a charity he dissolved as soon as he was released.

Epstein’s door was often left unlocked; deputies tasked with his security outside of prison premises wore business suits rather than uniforms; and he was often photographed flying to and from New York and his private island, Little St James, during his year of house arrest after being released. His victims were not notified of the sweetheart deal. To add insult to injury, one of the agreements written into the deal was that authorities would not go after Epstein’s co-conspirators.

“The distressing fact is that while that investigation was going on in 2006, years after seeing it initially reported... other clients of ours were being abused. This happened right under the nose of the FBI,” Jennifer Freeman, an attorney representing Maria Farmer, tells The Independent.

Last year, Freeman sent a notice of claim to the FBI, a necessary step before suing a governmental agency. In it, she argued that the bureau had done little to investigate Epstein, and “nothing at all regarding reports of child sexual abuse material at Epstein’s homes.” According to Freeman, Maria and fellow Epstein victim Sarah Ransome now plan to sue the FBI. They are all now demanding an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General to determine why it took so long to prosecute Epstein when evidence of his depravities had been made available to the agency decades before.

“The federal authorities could have could have brought their own indictment,” Ms Freeman said. “That’s the thing for the elite, there’s no accountability... Trafficking in a motel? You go to jail. Sex trafficking on a private plane and on a private island? Nothing happened, nothing consequent happened. Why does sex trafficking for the elite have virtually no consequences?”

Freeman pointed out that there have been instances in the past in which the FBI has conducted internal reviews when investigative failures are suspected, such as in the Parkland shooting investigation, the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal, or the Charleston mass shooting. But months after sending their request for a review, the FBI has yet to respond to Freeman’s notice.

“We haven’t received any suggestion that any kind of investigation has been going on. None of our clients have been contacted,” Freeman told The Independent. “Was Trump on the plane? Was Clinton on the plane or the island? [That’s what people seem to be interested in]... They’re useful and important questions, but that’s not the whole of it.” (Both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton vehemently deny any wrongdoing and there is no investigation into their activities.)

Mystery surrounds material seized from Epstein’s island

Another question that has yet to be addressed — and a focal point in the impending lawsuit — is the lack of transparency regarding the reported child sexual abuse material seized from Epstein’s home in Little St James. In litigation between an Epstein victim and JP Morgan, it emerged last year that the late paedophile’s estate had encountered a trove of pornographic content, some of “which might contain child sex abuse material (CSAM).”

The judge in the now-settled suit ordered the estate to stop reviewing the material and immediately report to the FBI if there was any suggestion that it indeed contained CSAM. However, months after the filings, it remains unclear what became of the material, or whether it is under review by federal authorities.

The FBI declined to comment on Ms Freeman’s remarks and the potential existence of CSAM in Epstein’s estate when reached by The Independent.

“There is certainly more to know,” Annie told The Independent. “I don’t know whether we will ever learn more about that but I don’t think we know everything.”

Annie says she’s grateful for the accountability she did witness — she was able to face Epstein during a bail hearing before he died by suicide in 2019 — but has reckoned with the fact that a flawed system has repeatedly failed victims. Abuse continued even after reports, victims were labelled “teenage prostitutes,” and now it seems that answers victims were seeking will not be provided.

“When people are seeking a sense of closure ... the criminal justice system feels hollow,” she said. “I think that’s in part just the nature of the system.”