More than two decades ago, Little St. James Island, a small part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, began to change in ways that the locals on neighboring 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 accused child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead by apparent suicide in his prison cell on August 10. The island has, over the years, gained a handful of sinister nicknames: “Orgy Island,” “Pedophile Island,” and “Island of Sin.” (Epstein, Bloomberg reports, preferred the nickname “Little St. Jeff’s.”)
Though much of what transpired on the island has remained the subject of rumor, it’s likely that more concrete details will soon emerge: On Monday, at least a dozen FBI agents raided Epstein’s Little St. James residence, a bureau spokesman told NBC News.
Below, everything to know about Epstein’s ties to the island.
The island was 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. After buying the 72-acre body of land, Epstein outfitted the island with towering palm trees, multiple buildings, and a helicopter pad, Bloomberg reports.
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. A former IT contractor who worked for Epstein from 1999 through 2005 also shed light on what was to be found inside Epstein’s residence: countless photos of nude women.
“There were photos of topless women everywhere,” contractor Steve Scully told ABC News. “On his desk, in his office, in his bedroom.”
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 have suggested 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.
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. According to Scully, though, the building is simply a gym. (He claims, however, that the gym allegedly features an especially large framed photo of a topless woman.)
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. To get there, Epstein would fly the underage girls into St. Thomas, and then he would ferry them over to his private island via a boat named Lady Ghislaine, one former employee told Bloomberg.
Once on the island, the underage girls and women say they were coerced into sexual encounters and, in some cases, even held hostage. Sarah Ransome, who claims Epstein instructed her to have sex with lawyer Alan Dershowitz when she was in her 20, said she tried to swim off the island, only to be found by a search party that included Epstein and his alleged madame Ghislaine Maxwell. (Dershowitz claims that he has never met Ransome). She also said that they kept her passport so she couldn’t leave — a ruthless tactic they allegedly used in an attempt to hold more than one victim against their will. In a 2015 defamation lawsuit filed against Maxwell, the house manager for one of Maxwell’s close friends testified that a “distraught” 15-year-old Swedish girl told him that Maxwell had taken away her passport and tried to force her to have sex with Epstein while she was on the island. (In a statement, a spokesperson for his former employer called this claim “demonstrably false and defamatory.”)
Furthermore, in his interview with ABC News, Scully said that he frequently saw groups of girls who “couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16 years old” riding ATVs and bathing topless.
And he reportedly ordered heavy renovations while he was facing a potential life sentence for his role in said alleged trafficking ring.
According to permit records obtained by NBC News, while Epstein’s legal team was busy negotiating a notoriously lenient plea deal for their client in the fall of 2007, Epstein was preoccupied with orchestrating major renovations on the island. (He would eventually plead guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor, thus dodging federal sex-trafficking charges, and serve just 13 months in jail.) During this time, Epstein reportedly ordered the construction of a spa, a living room that would connect to a ground theater, a new kitchen, and two new guest rooms. Altogether, he sought to expand his residence by nearly 20,000 square feet — a transformation that turned his main house into a mansion.
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?,’ [that] 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, the former prime minister of Israel Ehud Barak told the Daily Beast that he had 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 said.
This post has been updated.