More than two decades ago, Little St. James Island, a small body of land tucked in the U.S. Virgin Islands, began to change in ways that that locals on other islands regarded with suspicion. Plants were cleared. Poles bearing American flags went up. Security guards lined the beaches.
These transformations, according to the Associated Press, happened when the island was bought by a now-disgraced billionaire: Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted earlier this week on charges that he ran a sex-trafficking ring of underage girls in the early 2000s. What exactly has transpired on the island, which is Epstein’s main residence, has largely remained the subject of rumors. The island has, however, gained a handful of sinister nicknames over the years: “Orgy Island,” “Pedophile Island,” and “Island of Sin.” (Epstein, Bloomberg reports, preferred the nickname “Little St. Jeff’s.”)
Below, here’s everything to know about the Epstein’s ties to the island.
The island is Epstein’s main place of residence.
In 1998, for $7.95 million, Epstein purchased Little St. James Island, which is situated between the larger St. Thomas and St. John Islands. According to a former staffer who spoke to Bloomberg, before Epstein took a sweetheart deal from former U.S. Attorney and current Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and pleaded guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor in 2008, he would visit the island two to three times a month, and would typically stay a few days.
Since he’s been the owner of the 72-acre body of land, Epstein’s ordered quite a bit of construction, per Bloomberg: He has carved roads, planted towering palm trees, and built a massive stone mansion, which is surrounded by smaller buildings and a helicopter pad. Though not many details have been reported about the interior of the main residence, a former employee said that Epstein had two offices, which no one but the maid was allowed to enter, where he kept security boxes.
There’s also what appears to be a mysterious blue-striped temple. According to Insider, which investigated the structure, it previously featured a gold dome that flew off in 2017 when the hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the region. While the purpose of the temple is unknown, one possibility is that it had served as a place for the classically trained Epstein to practice piano — workers described it as a music room with acoustic walls and a grand piano inside, as the AP reports.
Conspiracy theorists waged that the temple was either a secluded setting for Epstein’s abuse or that it concealed a hidden underground location for the same purpose. James Both, a contractor whom Insider consulted with for the story, noted that while it was possible to install an underground space or elevator, the construction would have most likely been documented by a vendor to ensure regular inspections.
“A simple stairwell would be a better option if someone wanted to conceal their activities at the location.” Both also pointed out the temple’s questionable wooden door, which features a reinforcing lock bar. “What makes it peculiar is that if you wanted to keep people out, the bar would be placed inside the building, [but the] locking bar appears to be placed on the outside … as if it were intended to lock people in,” he said.
Epstein also had an interest in “pirate treasure,” one of his former employees told Bloomberg. Reportedly, Epstein would pay staffers anywhere between $100 and $1,000 if they discovered and gave to him old rum bottles, plates, and other dishware.
He allegedly ran his trafficking ring there.
According to Fox News, Epstein had a dedicated team of workers on the island who trafficked girls as young as 12 to his clients. Sarah Ransome, one of his alleged victims, said she tried to swim off the island only to be found by a search party that included Epstein and his cohort Ghislaine Maxwell. Ransome also said that they kept her passport so she couldn’t leave.
Though the specifics of the visits are unclear, one former employee told Bloomberg that Epstein would fly young women into St. Thomas, whom he would then ferry over to his private island via a boat named “Lady Ghislaine.”
Bill Clinton allegedly visited the island, though he has repeatedly denied the claims.
Virginia Roberts, who claims to have been trafficked by Epstein, told her lawyers in 2011 interview that she saw Clinton with “two young girls” on the island. “I remember asking Jeffrey, ‘What’s Bill Clinton doing here?’ kind of thing, and he laughed it off and said, ‘Well, he owes me a favor,’” Roberts told her lawyers.
Clinton, however, has repeatedly denied this allegation through his spokesperson.
“President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago, or those with which he has been recently charged in New York,” Angel Urena said in a statement. “He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida.”
Per Bloomberg, Les Wexner, chairman and CEO of the L Brands corporation (the parent company of Victoria’s Secret), also spent time on the island on at least occasion, an employee told the outlet. (Victoria’s Secret models allegedly visited, as well). Additionally, former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak told Daily Beast that he visited the island, though he explicitly said that he did not meet Epstein “in the company of women or young girls.”
Most recently, Epstein bought a neighboring island.
In 2016, Epstein purchased the nearby Great St. James Island, which is approximately 165 acres, for $18 million. This year, he had begun construction on a compound there despite a stop work order that had been in place since December. The compound was to feature an amphitheater, an underwater office, and pool, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.
On July 9, U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett said she would be matching the donations she had received from Epstein over the years to give to organizations in her district that focus on women and children. “I am uncomfortable having received money from someone who has been accused of these egregious actions multiple times,” Plaskett had said.
This post has been updated.