The Wexner Foundation recently confirmed Jeffrey Epstein, a money manager, was once a trustee of the foundation and said in an emailed statement it is now “sickened” by the registered sex offender’s behavior.
The Ohio State University also said in a statement it is reviewing gifts and donations received from Epstein and his affiliates.
The Wexner Foundation email, signed by foundation President Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson, said the New Albany-based organization received emails in which members, fellows and program alumni expressed concern about the relationship between Epstein and the foundation’s founder, Leslie H. Wexner. It said the foundation, as well as Wexner, severed ties with Epstein more than a decade ago.
“Needless to say, it is a highly disturbing story,” Abrahamson said in the statement. “Sexual abuse and trafficking is abhorrent, and when it involves minors, all the more so. It runs contrary to every value we believe in and teach, especially the fundamental tenet that all human beings are created in God’s image. This is an individual who utterly twisted and tossed aside that sacred notion. We are sickened by Mr. Epstein’s behavior. We pray that his victims will finally see their abuser brought to justice and experience a measure of healing.”
Epstein was a trustee of the foundation from the early 1990s to mid-2000s according to SEC filings. On July 8, he was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy by federal prosecutors in New York City. He allegedly was involved in sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He was denied bail July 18.
Wexner, L Brands chairman and CEO, was a client of Epstein’s more than a decade ago. Wexner released a statement July 15 that said he was “never aware of illegal activity.”
“I severed all ties with Mr. Epstein nearly 12 years ago,” Wexner said in the statement. “I would not have continued to work with any individual capable of such egregious, sickening behavior as has been reported about him. As you can imagine, this past week I have searched my soul ... reflected ... and regretted that my path ever crossed his.”
The COUQ Foundation, Epstein’s private foundation based in New York City, anonymously donated $2.5 million to Ohio State in May 2007. It was in partial fulfillment of a $5 million pledge made in 2005 to support the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The Leslie H. Wexner Charitable Fund made an additional $2.5 million gift in 2007, the university reported, which together were applied to the naming of the Les Wexner Football Complex.
In 1990, Epstein donated $1,000 to the Wexner Center for the Arts Membership Fund, according to Ohio State.
“Epstein is a convicted sex offender whose crimes are reprehensible, and his association with these gifts to the university is concerning,” the university’s statement read. “Ohio State is conducting a complete review of the giving history to the university by Epstein and known associated entities and will take additional action as appropriate.”
The indictment said Epstein and his employees engaged in a sex-trafficking scheme, bringing girls as young as 14 to his mansion and compound in Palm Beach, Fla. Federal authorities revealed July 8 the raid on Epstein’s mansion found hundreds of nude photos of girls and young women, as well as notes that allegedly support the charges, according to The Daily Beast. Prosecutors also outlined material to corroborate allegations that Epstein paid underage girls for sex acts. They said he turned some of them into recruiters for more victims.
Epstein was convicted in 2008 of soliciting a teenage girl to prostitution. He served 13 months in prison. A federal judge in Florida in February found federal prosecutors broke the law when they signed the plea bargain deal with Epstein since they did not consult with his victims, a violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which grants victims of federal crimes the ability to confer with prosecutors about a possible plea deal, among other rights, as reported by JTA.
Alex Acosta, a former federal prosecutor in South Florida, resigned as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary after his handling of the 2008 case was scrutinized.
The agreement provided Epstein with immunity from all sexual offenses he may have committed in the Southern District of Florida from 2001 to 2007 and sentenced him to one year of jail in a work-release program in Florida and forced him to register as a sex offender, according to CBS News.
In April, a woman accused Epstein of sexually assaulting her at Wexner’s New Albany house in the 1990s, The Daily Beast reported.
“When Mr. Epstein was my personal money manager, he was involved in many aspects of my financial life. But let me assure you that I was NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment,” Wexner said in the statement.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Epstein donated $47 million through his private foundation and company to the former YLK Charitable Fund, a charity established by Wexner’s wife, Abigail Wexner, in January 2008 – after Epstein was indicted in Florida for soliciting sex from girls. The donation consisted mostly of Apple shares and other investments. The YLK Charitable Fund shut down years later and its remaining assets went to the Wexner Family Charitable Fund, another foundation the family has used to support charities.