Epstein investigation moves to his New Mexico 'Zorro Ranch' as alleged victims interviewed
The investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, the Wall Street financier charged with underage sex offences, has expanded to a sprawling ranch he owns in New Mexico's high desert. Epstein's "Zorro Ranch," worth $12 million, is in the hills outside Santa Fe and has a private runway for his plane, stables, and perfectly manicured gardens. The office of New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas confirmed it was investigating allegations against Epstein, and interviewing people who allege that they were victims. Mr Balderas has been in contact with prosecutors in New York, where Epstein has already been charged and is awaiting trial. Epstein, 66, was first convicted of underage sex offences in 2008 when he agreed a plea deal in Florida. He admitted a single charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution in exchange for a 13 month jail sentence, and registering as a sex offender. Shortly after completing his sentence he bought the New Mexico ranch from the family of the late New Mexico governor Bruce King. Under New Mexico law he was not required to register as a sex offender there. According to local reports Epstein did voluntarily contact the sheriff's office in Santa Fe when he bought the ranch, alerting them about his conviction. But the New Mexico Department of Public Safety then told him he did not need to. In a statement Mr Balderas said the fact Epstein had not been required to register as a sex offender in New Mexico was a "huge black eye for our state." He added: "New Mexico continues to lag behind the rest of the country in strengthening outdated and weak laws that fail to protect our children from abuse." Mr Balderas has not said how many alleged victims have been interviewed, or any details of what they allege happened. In response to the New Mexico development Bradley Edwards, an lawyer for Epstein's alleged victims, told CBS News: "There are plenty of people that ran in his circles who have information. If you have information, you observed something, you heard something, come and let us know." In 2015 a woman who claims she was a victim filed a legal case in Florida in which she claimed to have been abused at several locations, including the New Mexico ranch. Epstein also owns a $77 million Manhattan townhouse and a 75-acre estate built on a private island in the US Virgin Islands. Last week Alex Acosta, the US Labor Secretary, resigned amid the fallout from the Epstein case. In 2008 he was the Florida prosecutor who negotiated Epstein's plea deal. Epstein has pleaded not guilty in New York to two charges including sex trafficking of minors. He could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted. In the 1970s Epstein was a teacher at Dalton School, a prestigious school in New York. Former students told the New York Times his behaviour there "violated norms," including turning up at a party where students were drinking.
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