14 Jun 2020

Filthy Rich author Tim Malloy: 'Epstein's currency was girls'

From Sunday Morning, 9:37 am on 14 June 2020

Tim Malloy is an Emmy Award-winning veteran of local and network television and co-author of Filthy Rich - the book about convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein that inspired the current Netflix true crime documentary series with the same name. 

He talked to RNZ's Sunday Morning about his pursuit of the now dead well- connected financier and why he quickly grew to view Epstein as 'pure evil.'

Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein

Photo: Screengrab / BBC

The still-emerging investigation into Epstein's crimes has been a sad and long-running saga. One of the men responsible for bringing details of it to the fore is multi-Emmy award-winning journalist Tim Malloy, who is based in south Florida where many of Epstein's crimes took place.

Filthy Rich began as a book he co-wrote with one of Epstein's neighbours in Palm Beach, novelist James Patterson.

"I got a call from a young guy, a kid - probably 15 or 16 - no name, and he told me 'you guys ought to be looking into a bunch of girls from Royal Palm Beach High School coming over to give massages to this older guy, and it's just weird'," he says.   

"You get a lot of calls, and I didn't pay a hell of a lot of attention to it, I noted it and asked for a number, and they never picked up when I called back, and then it kind of disappeared for a while."

Police in Palm Beach had already begun a probe into Epstein's activies. It started in 2005 after the mother of a 14-year-old girl found $300 in her daughter's pocket and learned it was from giving an older man a massage. At the time Epstein had begun to be known around the town, Molloy says.  

"He was a very secretive guy, but I would see him riding bicycles with these young girls - I would say 14 to 18, all strikingly pretty girls. It's a small town, so I would see him and then started to put it all together when I heard about the investigation."

A policeman told Molloy Epstein's Palm Beach mansion was under surveillance, and there was concern about what was going on inside.

"They knew the kids coming across the bridges in clunky cars were not shouldering up with the wealthy people who live here," he says.

Jeffrey Epstein pictured in a handout photo from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department.

Jeffrey Epstein pictured in a handout photo from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department. Photo: AFP / Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department / Handout

Molloy began tailing Epstein and trying to track down photos of him, and talked over the problem with novelist James Patterson, who lived near Esptein.

"Within a day there was a book in motion, this was [Patterson's] first non-fiction book, but he was all over it. He did books on serial murders, but in a lot of ways in Jim's mind and mine this guy was killing these girls - he was killing their spirits, so he was a horror. This was hundreds and hundreds of girls.

"I was in Afghanistan a lot [reporting the US-led war], but I was more frightened of Epstein than I was of those trips. He was just a dangerous guy, and he had all the money in the world and private detectives working for him," Molloy says.

The Epstein investigations that were unfolding were very much part of the Me Too movement, he says. But at the time he was gathering material for the book, before the movement had gathered steam internationally, many of the then-young teenage girls' identities had to be kept anonymous.

Though later as they grew into adults they were able to publicly stand up and speak out.  

"Most of these girls ... came from poor communities, broken families, many had been homeless some had been sexually abused, they're people who were most vulnerable.

"Going over the bridge to Palm Beach from West Palm Beach is like going to Oz, and to them for $300 - give this guy a foot rub, and one thing led to another, and ... he pushed it further.

"Some of them said they were deeply in love with them, he put some through college, he bought 'em cars, he bought businesses for those people. He threatened parents, he paid parents off. "

 US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City.

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Photo: AFP

In 2008 Epstein pleaded guilty and was convicted on charges relating to exploiting an underage girl for prosititution in 2008. But Molloy says the case began to pick up even more publicity in 2017 when the lead prosector from that case, Alexander Acosta - who had been accused of giving Epstein an easy ride, was nominated for cabinet as Secretary of Labor under US President Donald Trump.

"Once it was attached to the administration it got momentum."

Meanwhile, Molloy says Epstein's wealth and ties to power had been growing.

"He did not take any of this seriously, he thought that he would get away with this forever. And he did in Palm Beach - he got a year and a half with an ankle bracelet, he got nothing. It wasn't until he was stupid enough to fly in from Paris a year or so ago thinking that no one was watching him, that he made his final mistake.

"But the arrogance showed, and that's how he got caught in the end."

Filthy Rich poses the question, why did all the investigations into Epstein's activities get stymied.

"There was a dream team of lawyers ... he had every tough defence attorney in the world representing him. There's a chance the authorities were cowed or intimidated by them, so they took what ... they knew they could get, which was not much for this guy.

"Jeffrey knew people from both administrations. Were strings pulled at the very top? We don't know. I don't know how this guy got to go home to the house where a crime was committed when he was in custody. And spent 12 hours at day at his house when he should have been in jail. This guy got away.

"His currency was girls, and he used that to get to people, and get things from people."

Molloy says the makers of the Netflix documentary did a good job, and he recommends the series.

"In the end, they didn't come to any conclusion. But this story's not over. As long as [Epstein's consort] Ghislaine Maxwell is still alive, that's the missing link. There are good people all over the place trying to find her.

"The police that finally brought him down, took a lot of stuff out of that house [in New York] and video tapes, and there's so much more to reveal. I don't know what's to come, but this is really not over."