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HomeNewsLocal newsAmended Complaint Filed in Jane Does' Suit Against V.I. Government

Amended Complaint Filed in Jane Does’ Suit Against V.I. Government

An amended complaint filed Tuesday in the Jane Does lawsuit against the V.I. government offers a few new sensational allegations but is largely couched in the same language as the first, implying that the territory has its own coast guard, air traffic controllers and customs agents that aided Jeffrey Epstein in violation of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The class action suit, filed late last month in Manhattan federal court by Jane Does 1-5, accuses the V.I. government of a sprawling conspiracy to aid in the sex-trafficking scheme of Epstein, 66, a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to procuring a minor for prostitution in Florida in 2008 and died by apparent suicide in August 2019 while in detention in New York on federal trafficking charges.

His primary residence was Little St. James, his private island off St. Thomas where for years he ran a complex web of shell companies registered in the USVI that enabled his crimes.

Judge Arun Subramanian, who is presiding over the Jane Does lawsuit, has ruled that the alleged victims may proceed anonymously, given the sensitive nature of sexual assault cases. However, the complaint states that their identities and those of others it predicts will join the class action “are known to Defendants and will be provided to them as required.”

The suit names former First Lady Cecile de Jongh, her husband, former Gov. John de Jongh, former Gov. Kenneth Mapp, former Sen. Celestino White, former Attorney General Vincent Frazer, V.I. Port Authority Director Carlton Dowe in his role as a then-senator, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, and John Does 1-100.

The amended 48-page complaint has added one more plaintiff, Jane Doe 6, and offers some more sensational claims, including an allegation of a second rape at Epstein’s office in Red Hook on St. Thomas that it says occurred within earshot of his then office manager Cecile de Jongh, and that the former first lady once stayed at his New York apartment for a month to aid in his sex-trafficking scheme. It also more precisely delineates the roles of the John Does.

Like the original complaint, it also attributes actions to the V.I. government that are under the authority of the federal government, such as the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, State Department, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

For example, the amended complaint details how in 2004 Jane Doe 3 was allowed into the territory without a passport, and how Epstein obtained travel documents for her from a “USVI customs agent” when hers had expired.

“The responses and reactions by the USVI customs agents indicated that USVI regularly and routinely provided Epstein with visas, passports or other travel documents to enable him to traffick his victims internationally, including to the USVI,” the complaint states.

“Jane Doe 6 was escorted by Epstein’s co-conspirators to a government building on the main USVI island, where two USVI customs agents and/or government officials chatted and laughed with the two Epstein associates while Jane Doe 6 stood silent. Without once asking Jane Doe 6 any questions, without Jane Doe 6 providing any documentation supporting her identity or citizenship, without Jane Doe signing anything, and without Jane Doe saying one word, the USVI officials gave Jane Doe 6 documents authorizing her travel back into the U.S. from the USVI,” according to the complaint.

The complaint states that all the plaintiffs are U.S. citizens and residents of New York State and does not explain why Jane Doe 6 would need authorization to travel back into the United States from the territory, or why she would need a passport to enter the USVI. The plaintiffs’ attorneys did not respond Wednesday to an emailed list of questions seeking clarification.

Otherwise, the complaint leans heavily on information uncovered through depositions and discovery by both sides in the V.I. government’s lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase — Epstein’s banker from about 1999 until 2013 — that was settled in September for $75 million.

In fact, the complaint states that it was not until the V.I. government sued the bank and territory officials were deposed as part of that case that “the Plaintiffs and public learned of the many acts committed by Defendants which contributed to and caused Plaintiffs’ injuries.”

It levels the same accusations as attorneys for JPMorgan did to highlight the government’s cozy ties with Epstein:

– that the de Jonghs borrowed $215,000 from Epstein so John de Jongh could resolve a criminal case against him over the use of public money for improvements to his private home;
– that he contributed money to Plaskett’s reelection campaign and to the local Democratic Party;
– that he gave to local charities favored by the governor;
– that he attempted to influence the territory’s sex offender legislation in his favor, eventually receiving a waiver of the 21-day notice of travel down to 24 hours when Vincent Frazer was attorney general;
– and received lucrative tax breaks for his businesses worth $300 million from the Economic Development Commission, including when Plaskett was an attorney there.

As for the John Does, the amended complaint states that all of them were “employees of the USVI,” and that John Does 1-10 and 51-100 were “USVI customs agents and/or officers,” John Does 11-20 were “USVI air traffic controllers,” John Does 21-30 were “USVI airport baggage check agents,” John Does 31-40 were USVI police officers, and John Does 41-50 were “USVI coast guard agents.”

“Defendant USVI negligently hired, supervised, and retained Defendants John Does 1-100,” the complaint states.

As for why the lawsuit has been filed in the District Court for the Southern District of New York and not the U.S. Virgin Islands, the complaint states that Epstein’s “sex-trafficking operation was based, managed and operated out of New York City,” and that the defendants or their offices “regularly communicated with Epstein about the formation, operation, and maintenance of Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring by electronic means, including voice telephone, text message, video telephone or meeting, while Epstein was in his New York office and/or residence.”

It also says that Epstein’s Manhattan mansion was used as a base to transport his victims to other locales, including the USVI, and that “on at least one occasion” Cecile de Jongh stayed at one of his New York apartments for a month in 2017 “in order to advise and assist him in securing the USVI’s cooperation as a safe harbor for his sex-trafficking ring.”

In a partial transcript of her deposition by JPMorgan attorneys in the V.I. government’s lawsuit against the bank, de Jongh denied, at times vehemently, being aware of Epstein’s sex trafficking, saying that had she suspected anybody was in distress she would have alerted her security detail, a female officer who was head of sexual assault investigations at the police department.

Asked if any of the women she met with Epstein ever looked distressed, de Jongh said no, that they would fly in and out on their own and appeared “that they were doing all of this under their free will.”

In hindsight, after Epstein’s 2019 arrest, “[w]hat I didn’t see, and I guess what I would have looked for were underage girls,” said de Jongh. “And I didn’t — I didn’t see that. … I didn’t have an understanding about sex trafficking. You know, that somebody could be 30 years old and be sex trafficked. I didn’t — and maybe — maybe I’ve led a sheltered life, but I didn’t understand that. And that, you know, if somebody is introduced as somebody’s girlfriend, I took it as face value that that’s their girlfriend,” she said.

While the USVI has a $25,000 tort claim cap, the lawsuit is seeking “compensatory, consequential, general, and nominal damages” as well as “punitive and exemplary damages and treble damages” against the defendants in an amount to be determined at trial.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jordan K. Merson, Jordan Rutsky and Kimberly A. Kramer of Merson Law, PLLC, and Annette Hasapidis of Hasapidis Law Offices.

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