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'Poor, smart and desperate to be rich': How Epstein went from teaching to Wall Street

Linda Robertson and Aaron Brezel, Miami Herald on

Published in Business News

MIAMI -- Before Jeffrey Epstein managed money for the world's rich and powerful, he was educating their teenage children.

Epstein, the accused sex trafficker awaiting a bail ruling in a Manhattan jail, taught math and physics at the Dalton School, a private K-12 institution whose students are the sons and daughters of New York City's elite. It was there on the aristocratic Upper East Side in the mid-1970s that a charming, bright young man with a head for numbers catapulted from his Coney Island roots to a double life of astounding wealth and disturbing depravity.

By the time he was 45, Epstein was living 18 blocks from Dalton in an eight-story mansion now worth $77 million, one of several posh homes where investigators say he molested dozens upon dozens of young girls, who were recruited to give him massages and coerced into sex acts. He followed a similar pattern at his waterfront estate in Palm Beach, where he pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting prostitution -- despite being charged by accused by dozens of underage girls with far more serious crimes -- and received a remarkably lenient sentence, courtesy of a U.S. attorney who later become President Donald Trump's labor secretary.

Epstein launched his financier career during a parent-teacher conference at Dalton in 1976 when he dazzled a student's father with his intelligence. Epstein confided that he wasn't cut out to be a teacher. He envisioned himself on Wall Street.

"This parent was so wowed by the conversation he told my father, 'You've got to hire this guy,' " recalled Lynne Koeppel, daughter of the late Alan "Ace" Greenberg, an executive at Bear Stearns investment bank. "Give Jeff credit. He was brilliant."

Greenberg was also impressed by Epstein, then 23, a two-time college dropout and son of a parks department employee. Greenberg, son of an Oklahoma City women's clothing store owner, rose from Bear Stearns clerk to CEO and had an affinity for what he called "PSDs" -- poor, smart and desperate to be rich.

 

"That was Jeff," Koeppel said. "He was very smart and he knew how to woo people, how to schmooze. He's personable and makes good company."

Did Epstein purposely place himself at Dalton to get a foot on the ladder to jet-setting, celebrity-mingling high society?

"If that was his plan, it worked," she said.

Epstein, now 66, started his job at the Dalton School at age 21 without a degree and taught high school students only a few years younger than he was.

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