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Epstein Theories, Ranked
#3 -- Emergency Roads-to-Riches Edition
Maybe accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein has only half a billion dollars. Or half that. Still a pile of money. Epstein operates his own 727 and it’s not cheap to fly Bill Clinton to Africa. How’d he get it all? Here are 8 popular theories, in order of increasing plausibility:
8. Master Trader! In this theory, Epstein made his millions the way he said he made his millions, by brilliantly managing money for wealthy clients. Nobody believes this theory. For one thing, Epstein seems to have been a virtual unknown in the trading world.
7. Insider trading: Initially plausible. Epstein has a lot of rich and powerful friends. Maybe they tell him things about their businesses. But in order to capitalize on this information he’d have to trade, which people would notice -- see #8 above. When inside trader Ivan Boesky made trades, people knew he was making trades, no?
6. Blackmail: Theory favored by many and outlined in a viral tweet from “Quantian.” In this scenario, Epstein lures ultra rich friends to parties, then gets compromising videos and photos of them having sex, perhaps with underage women.
Morning after, you strike. You inform him she was really 15, but you offer him a nice, neat way to buy your silence: a large allocation to your hedge fund.
They agree to invest, and maybe don’t demand a return on their investment. Problem: There can’t be that many billionaires interested in underage sex. And if there were, it would be very hard to blackmail that many of them and get away with it without someone blowing the whistle or retaliating in, um, other ways. It’s a pretty confrontational lifestyle Quantian outlines. … Plus: Why would Epstein want to have parties filled with boring businessmen when he could have parties filled with movie stars, directors, Nobel physicists and other celebrities (who aren’t typically rich enough to be lucrative blackmail targets). Caveat: I’m not saying Epstein didn’t collect kompromat in his CD collection. Always comes in handy. I’m saying if he did it’s probably not how he got his money.
5. Maitre D’ of a sex club: In this, seemingly more plausible theory, rich people aren’t blackmailed into giving Epstein money. They’ve voluntarily set him up to look rich while he procures young women (and men?) for them. Problem: Seems like a lot for a rich person to pay just to get laid, unless Epstein could somehow spread the cost over a (secret) subscriber list the size of Joe Rogan’s. If he’s catering to niche tastes—eg. “tweens and teens” — how many ultra-rich people are there who are also into that?
4. Ponzi Scheme: Theory given credence by Epstein’s association with Steven Hoffenberg, an actual convicted Ponzi schemer whom Epstein worked for, and who has since accused Epstein of being “totally in the mix” of his fraud. Problem: Ponzi schemes need to attract a constant stream of new investors (their money is then used to pay the “returns” to earlier investors). When they don’t get new recruits, they die. Is there any evidence that Epstein was desperately drumming up new (sucker) investors? Maybe he got his initial nest egg from Hoffenberg (as some, such as Entylawyer, have claimed). But after that, this seems an unlikely fortune-builder.
3. Charitable abuse: Thomas Volscho, a professor working on an Epstein book, says:
He was running charities for [Leslie] Wexner [the retail billionaire and Epstein’s one major client], and then was running his own charities, and they always had $9 million or $10 million donations circulating around them. And I always suspected, but not got around to pursuing, that he was embezzling funds. And I can’t prove that, but that’s my suspicion right now
Seems like a reliable way to enrich yourself, especially for someone with Epstein’s brilliant aura. But $9-10 million is nickel and dime stuff when you have a 727 to maintain.
2. Espionage: Hottest theory at the moment, in part because the other theories have problems. In Daily Beast, Vicky Ward reports:
Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” [future Labor secretary Alex] Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer ….
Acosta was asked about this ‘intelligence asset’ business at his Wednesday press conference. He answered: “So there has been reporting to that effect … I can’t address it directly because of our guidelines.” OK! That’ll dampen the speculation.
Why wouldn’t a foreign intelligence agency (or a domestic one) want to subsidize Epstein if it could get compromising leverage over a slew of public figures? Yet the list of Epstein’s contacts — i.e. potentially compromisable public figures — isn’t that impressive: Bill Clinton, Prince Bandar, Tony Blair, Jon Huntsman, Henry Kissinger … .** Clinton is the obvious big fish here. He left office in 2001, but his wife was a potential, maybe even likely president. But why, after she lost, didn’t the Mossad or the Kremlin or whoever roll the expensive Epstein operation up? …. Oh wait.
**— Trump too, of course. But did anyone think Trump might be president in the late twentieth century years when Epstein was getting rich?
1. Money Laundering: You can make a lot of money laundering money — 10% of the amount laundered or more, they say. Until recently, Epstein had a working relationship with Deutsche Bank, which has some experience in this lucrative specialty. The main problem with this (unproven) money laundering scenario, as far as the sensational Epstein scandal goes, is that it’s wildly boring.