NEW YORK — Jeffrey Epstein may be dead, but a battle over his vast and mysterious multimillion-dollar estate is expected to roar to life soon.
The convicted pedophile accused of trafficking numerous underage girls never married and had no known children. With both parents deceased, his younger brother Mark “Puggy” Epstein, 64, a New York real estate developer, appears to be his most obvious heir.
A man who identified himself as Mark abruptly hung up on the New York Daily News without commenting Monday.
Epstein’s fortune includes a $77 million mansion on New York’s Upper East Side where the multimillionaire allegedly abused girls between 2002 and 2005, many of them in a massage room, federal officials said as they sought to seize the posh pad following Epstein’s arrest.
Epstein, 66, also owned a compound on a private island called Little St. James in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a New Mexico property named Zorro Ranch previously valued at $12 million, a plush pad in Paris just steps from the Arc de Triomphe and a gated mansion in Palm Beach, Fla.
No wills were immediately filed Monday in either New York or the Virgin Islands, court clerks told The News.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, are likely weighing the option of filing lawsuits to seize Epstein’s luxury properties through civil forfeiture proceedings that could lead to property auctions and the formation of a victims’ restitution fund.
“I can’t imagine a scenario where prosecutors are not considering the prospect of using forfeiture as a means of providing victim compensation,” Sharon Cohen Levin, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, told The News.
“If there’s a strong criminal case, these cases are generally easy to prove. It’s the same evidence that the government was going to present at trial,” she said.
“So we still might get a trial. The difference now is that instead of having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the government has to prove a preponderance,” a lower threshold that simply finds something is more likely to have occurred than not, she said.
She said the government could go after Epstein’s properties in Paris and the U.S. Virgin Islands if they have the evidence to back up their claims.
“Those are jurisdictions with strong diplomatic ties. The U.S. Virgin Islands would not be problematic,” she said.
At least one lawyer for several alleged victims has called for an immediate freezing of Epstein’s assets.
“Jeffrey Epstein hurt dozens if not hundreds of girls and women. His estate now has the chance to do the right thing and provide for his victims by freezing his assets, allowing all of them to come forward and present claims, and compensate them for the devastation this predator caused to their lives,” lawyer Lisa Bloom told The News on Monday.
“If the estate does not choose to do so, we will fight for our clients’ right for respect,” she said.
Epstein died Saturday in what prison officials said was an apparent suicide. He was awaiting trial on new federal sex-trafficking charges.
Bloom said Monday she isn’t opposed to government seizure of Epstein’s assets, but her goal is getting the most money possible for her clients.
“I am in favor of any and all efforts to get justice for the victims. But normally a civil lawsuit results in far larger amounts than restitution in criminal cases. And the victim has complete control of her own civil case,” Bloom told The News.
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