By Karen Freifeld and Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Women who say they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein are expected to sue the disgraced financier’s estate as soon as Wednesday, when a New York law goes into effect that makes it easier for people to file civil lawsuits over sexual abuse.
Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive Saturday morning in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan, having apparently hanged himself, according to federal prison authorities.
Los Angeles attorney Lisa Bloom and New York lawyer Roberta Kaplan told Reuters this past weekend that they intend to file lawsuits in New York against the estate this week.
Kaplan said she hopes to take advantage of the Child Victims Act, a New York state law which opens a one-year window for people to file lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse regardless of how long ago it occurred.
Epstein, who once counted Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic former President Bill Clinton as friends, was arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls between 2002 and 2005. Prosecutors said he recruited girls to give him massages, which became sexual in nature.
The financier had been on suicide watch, but a source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was not on watch at the time of his death.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday ordered the transfer of the warden at the MCC after condemning “serious irregularities” at the facility.
Trump has called for an investigation into Epstein’s death.
Barr also said the criminal investigation into Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking and the role of possible co-conspirators would continue.
It is not known if Epstein had a will.
A document filed by Epstein’s lawyers last month listed his total assets at about $559 million, including two private islands and four homes. One residence, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is worth an estimated $77 million.
Kaplan represents a woman described in the criminal indictment against Epstein as a minor victim. The unidentified woman was recruited to engage in sex acts with Epstein around 2002, when she was 14, and paid hundreds of dollars for each encounter with the financier, according to the indictment.
Another lawsuit could come from Jennifer Araoz, a woman who said in an interview aired on NBC last month that she was recruited outside her New York City school to spend time with Epstein, and eventually give him massages, when she was 14.
“This week, we intend to pursue justice for our client, Jennifer Araoz, and hold accountable those who enabled Mr. Epstein’s criminal activity,” Araoz’ lawyer, Dan Kaiser, said in a statement on Sunday. “Jennifer deserves her day in court.”
Kaiser did not return a request for comment.
Bloom told Reuters she hoped the estate would not be sold off until alleged victims’ claims were resolved, and that she would seek a court order to prevent that if necessary.
To obtain damages, alleged victims will need to prove their claims only by a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt as in a criminal case.