By Emily Drooby
Influential New York billionaire Jeffrey Epstein has been charged with sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. Federal prosecutors out of New York unsealed the criminal indictment on July 8, after allegedly finding lewd photographs in his Manhattan mansion.
Damage to the door of Epstein’s New York City apartment could be seen after federal agents stormed through. According to prosecutors, his home is one of the places from which he operated his sex trafficking ring. Earlier that day, Epstein was also arrested.
The indictment alleges he ran a trafficking enterprise between 2002 and 2005, paying women as young as 14 for sex. He now faces 45 years in prison if convicted.
These charges come a decade after the financier avoided similar charges in Miami through a deal with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Epstein is well-connected, known for having relationships with high level people like former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump. Both have denied involvement in the case.
Epstein is charged with sex trafficking, which is a form of human trafficking, and part of a major global issue.
Forced labor and human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry.
In New York City, it has become an epidemic. In 2018, The National Human Trafficking Hotline counted 206 cases in New York.
Sister Joan Dawber is the Executive Director of Lifeway Network, a Brooklyn and Queens-based group educating the public and providing safe housing for trafficking victims.
“Brooklyn and Queens is an epicenter for human trafficking,” she explained.
In an interview done earlier this year, she said that Pope Francis consistently fights against human trafficking, calling it a wound on humanity.
She explained that it is important for the Church to work together to help stamp it out, “so that human beings can be just have the dignity that is part of being a human being, made in God’s likeness.”
The importance of combatting human trafficking was not lost on U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who while announcing the charges against Epstein, said it’s important to hold him accountable for all of his past victims.
“The alleged behavior shocks the conscience. and while the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims now young women. they deserve their day in court,” he said.
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was the U.S. attorney who oversaw Epstein’s original case where he received the controversial plea deal. As more information on the case becomes public, top Democrats including Nancy Pelosi are calling for Acosta’s resignation.