In addition to schools and Mar-a-Lago, dance studios seem to have been one of Jeffrey Epstein's preferred hunting grounds, at least in New York City. The NY Times reports that the financier specifically tasked his recruiters with bringing him young dancers, and in certain cases, trafficked them across state lines.
The Times spoke with two former dancers who recall being summoned to Epstein's mansion on the premise of providing private classes. Marlo Fisken, a dance instructor now based in Boulder, Colorado, says a recruiter approached her in 2006, when she was in her early 20s, and asked if she might want to work as a personal trainer to a wealthy man. When she showed up at Epstein's mansion, she says, he kept trying to coerce her into sexual massages. "He was like, ‘You know, my Russian ballet instructor, she massages my testicles because it helps my flexibility,’” Ms. Fisken told the Times. “I said, ‘O.K., I can’t do that for you.’” Epstein reportedly let her go when she refused.
Nadia Vostrikov, a former dancer, said she was a very young-looking 26 when a woman came up to her in the bathroom at Steps on Broadway in 2013, when she was a particularly young-looking 26-year-old. The woman reportedly asked if Vostrikov might be interested in taking on one of her private ballet clients. When Vostrikov agreed to a Skype interview, she wound up speaking with an older man who informed her he was a registered sex offender and told her to look up his name. "I never talked to him again," Vostrikov told the Times, adding that Epstein's infiltration of the ballet community seemed to violate its understanding of trust.
But according to a trio of lawsuits filed on August 20th, Epstein sought to leverage his connections within NYC's dance world. One of the women behind these suits, "Katlyn Doe," contends that — beginning in 2007, when she was 17 — Epstein got her to "engage in commercial sexual acts with him, [eventually] including sexual intercourse, in exchange for cash payments and various other financial enticements such as medical treatment, dance classes, and educational courses." Another, "Priscilla Doe," alleges she was a 20-year-old dancer when "another young female" asked her if she wanted to earn extra money by massaging "a very wealthy man." Despite Priscilla's adamant insistence that would not have sex until marriage, the complaint says, Epstein eventually "informed [her] that he had resources that he would use to advance Plaintiff’s dance career if she would do what he wanted her to do." He also, allegedly, agreed to underwrite a relative's badly needed medical care, knowing Priscilla could not afford to do so. He used her financial position to manipulate her into his sex ring, the lawsuit contends, trapping her with threats of physical harm if she disobeyed him.
In a third complaint, "Lisa Doe" said she was 17 and "an avid dancer with a promising future as a professional dancer" when a recruiter approached her at her studio in 2002, asking if Lisa would want to "teach a dance-based exercise class at the home of a wealthy man in the City." When she arrived at Epstein's Upper East Side townhouse, she told him about her professional aspirations, and he told her that "he was closely connected to many major dance companies in New York City and that he was close personal friends with some of the most influential names in dance," according to the complaint. In addition to leveraging his network, he allegedly also promised to buy her expensive dance gear, if she would "engage in various sexually-charged stretching activities," rather than "the exercise dance class that she had prepared to teach." After a few of those sessions, Lisa says she was then asked to start massaging Epstein instead — which she says ultimately led to Epstein assaulting her.
Alongside the promises of professional help, though, the lawsuit contends that Epstein also made threats. She allegedly felt she had no choice to cooperate, even when he decided she was "aging out" of his preferred victim demographics, and demanded she "go to her dance studio and find other dancers" to give him massages. "For as long as Plaintiff can remember," the lawsuit states, "her dream was to become a professional dancer. Because she had not ever considered an alternative career path, Plaintiff did not have a formal education, nor did she have any technical training. Plaintiff only had her dance career and the promises made to her by Jeffrey Epstein." Those promises allegedly cut both ways: He could make her dance career, or he could ruin her. So, until 2010, she did as he told her.
Before he died by apparent suicide, Epstein faced federal sex trafficking charges for allegedly enlisting dozens of underage girls into a system that's been described as a "sexual pyramid scheme." Preying upon economically vulnerable minors with precarious home lives, he sent out his existing victims to bring in new victims, according to prosecutors. He would then coerce the girls who wound up in his web into providing sexual services for himself and for his wealthy friends, the indictment said.
A number of those victims have opted to take different routes toward justice in the weeks since his death, but that process is complicated by Epstein's eleventh-hour decision to tie up his vast fortune in a complex trust. Now, his will is reportedly proving an immense headache for its two co-executors, his former lawyer, Darren Indyke, and former accountant, Richard Kahn. The NY Post reports that the pair have asked for a master executor to sort out the 40-plus claims that have already been laid to Epstein's assets. That number will presumably grow as victims continue to sue the financier's estate and alleged co-conspirators.