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Jeffrey Epstein accuser seeks to question him before filing lawsuit

Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK -- The woman who came forward Wednesday on national TV to claim Jeffrey Epstein raped her when she was 15 wants to question him under oath to learn more about his alleged enablers before filing a lawsuit.

Jennifer Araoz, 32, filed a petition the same day in New York state court in which she seeks not only to question Epstein but also to find out the identity of a young woman she calls "the recruiter" who she said lured her into his clutches when she was 14. Epstein "committed repeated sexual assault and battery" against her in 2001 and 2002, she alleges in a draft of her suit, to be filed next month.

In the draft, also filed Wednesday, Araoz says she met the recruiter in the fall of 2001 when she was a freshman at a public high school for the performing arts on East 67th Street in Manhattan. The school is a few blocks away from Epstein's mansion. It was in that home, on East 71st Street, that Epstein would molest her repeatedly, she says.

"He raped me, forcefully raped me" at 15, she told NBC-TV. "I was terrified and was telling him to stop. And he did not stop. That's what he wanted, that's what he got."

Reid Weingarten, a lawyer for Epstein, didn't immediately return a voicemail seeking comment on Araoz's allegations.

The recruiter, who was waiting for her on the sidewalk one day when school let out, befriended her and took her for lunches nearby, Araoz says. The woman, who was in her early 20s, began mentioning Epstein "as if he were her uncle," she says.

He was just a "nice guy" who "takes care of her and her family," she told Araoz, according to the suit. She spoke "glowingly" of Epstein, and said, "You have to see his house."

She peppered Araoz with questions about her family and background, Araoz says in the suit. Araoz says she confided to the recruiter that she had recently lost her father to complications from AIDS. The woman would later tell her "that Epstein felt horrible" about his death and wanted to help her. She promised her Epstein could "benefit" her, with his many friends in acting and modeling.

"Epstein was looking for teens from a local high school so he could abuse them," Daniel Kaiser, Araoz's lawyer, said in an interview. "This is a young girl who came from a broken home, whose father had died of AIDS. She was a lost soul, and Epstein paid her these sums of money which her mom desperately needed."

Under a New York State law that goes into effect next month, Kaiser said, victims of child sexual abuse have a year, starting Aug. 14, to file suits over older claims. In the meantime, he said, he is seeking to depose Epstein and get any of the financier's business records.

Kaiser declined to make Araoz available for an interview and wouldn't say whether she had spoken with federal authorities, who have asked that any new Epstein victims and witnesses come forward.

 

Epstein, 66, was arrested Saturday night and charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy in an indictment unsealed on Monday. The hedge fund manager is accused of using his wealth and power to attract dozens of girls to his Manhattan mansion, where he is alleged to have sexually abused them for years.

In the suit, Araoz recalls that one room in the mansion was "designed to look like his favorite room at the White House, which he called 'the Blue Room.' " During a tour of the home, which included his taxidermy collection, she says, Epstein showed her the master bedroom, which featured a large hot tub "and prosthetic breasts on the wall in a bathroom that he could look at or play with in the bathtub."

The recruiter eventually took Araoz to meet Epstein, according to the draft lawsuit, and after she was given food and wine, Epstein handed her $300, saying, "I take care of the people I care about."

Araoz says she told Epstein she was a high school freshman and returned several times with the woman, then visited him alone. Each time, she alleges, Epstein handed her $300 as she was leaving. She says she wasn't worried, because his home was "only a couple of blocks from her high school" and he had "done nothing to give her concern."

At one point, Epstein took Araoz to a massage room, "painted with ornate murals to look like ancient Rome," and told her that he needed to see her nude to determine if she could be a model, she alleges. After she disrobed, she says, he asked her to give him a massage, fondled her and masturbated, repeating the process each time she visited over the next year.

In the end, Kaiser said, Araoz dropped out of high school.

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