Guards on duty when Epstein died indicted

2019-11-21 09:06:28China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Two federal corrections guards who were on duty the night alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide in a Manhattan jail were charged Tuesday with falsifying records and defrauding the United States.

If convicted, Tova Noel, 31, and Michael Thomas, 41, each face at least five years in prison after rejecting a deal to plead guilty to falsification of records.

"The defendants have a duty to ensure the safety and security of Federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center," US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. "Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction."

Noel and Thomas are charged with one count each of conspiring to defraud the US and conspiracy to falsify records. In addition, Noel is charged with five counts of making false records, and Thomas is charged with three counts of making false records. Each count carries a maximum five-year prison term. Bail was set at $100,000 each.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell Aug 10. The New York City coroner ruled his death a suicide by hanging.

Two weeks prior to his death, jail officials moved Epstein to a suicide-watch unit in the jail after he had been found unconscious in his cell with marks around his neck.

The officers allegedly failed to check on Epstein every 30 minutes as required and then allegedly falsified jail records to show the checks had been made. The prosecutor alleged no checks were made between 10:30 pm Aug 9 until about 6:30 am Aug 10, when Epstein's body was discovered. Both Noel and Thomas worked overtime at the jail because of staffing shortages.

The indictment unsealed on Tuesday against the two officers said one of the guards on duty was catching up on sports news and looking at motorcycle sales on a government computer.

The other spent time shopping online for furniture. For about two hours, they appeared to be asleep at a desk just 15 feet from Epstein's cell.

The indictment said neither guard made the required rounds every 30 minutes to check on inmates, but both filed paperwork claiming they had.

The guards discovered Epstein was dead when they entered the area to serve him breakfast.

Epstein, a multimillionaire financier, was arrested July 6 in Teterboro, New Jersey, after he returned from Paris on a private jet. He was charged with single counts of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and sex trafficking.

If he had been convicted, he would have faced up to 45 years in prison.

A judge ruled that Epstein was a flight risk and a danger to the community and ordered him held in custody until the trial.

The prosecution alleged that Epstein sought underage girls, some as young as 14, from at least 2002 to 2005 and paid cash for sex acts at his Manhattan townhouse or his house in Palm Beach, Florida.

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to procuring a girl younger than 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution. He served 13 months in a Florida jail. Federal authorities agreed not to prosecute.

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