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Agents descend on Epstein’s island home looking for evidence of inner circle: Sources

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

(NEW YORK) — Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was taken off suicide watch July 29, in part, at the urging of his defense attorneys, sources familiar with the decision told ABC News as federal agents were seen at the grounds of the financier’s island home in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

ABC News on Monday afternoon observed federal agents, including FBI and Customs and Border Protection, at the dock and on the grounds of Little Saint James, Jeffrey Epstein’s island home in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Task force investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York are looking for evidence of Epstein’s inner circle, sources told ABC News

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. Virgin Islands has declined to comment on the nature of the operation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York also declined to comment, but in a weekend statement the U.S. Attorney, Geoffrey Berman, said the investigation into Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking “remains ongoing.”

Under heightened pressure from lawmakers over Epstein’s death, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators “should not rest easy” just because Epstein won’t have his day in court.

“Let me assure you that case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” Barr said in remarks to a law enforcement group in New Orleans on Monday. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. Victims deserve justice and will get it.”

Barr also raised alarm over what he described as “serious irregularities” in the prison’s handling of Epstein.

Before Epstein was formally removed from suicide watch, he had to undergo more than one psychiatric evaluation before prison officials made the move, according to sources.

The sources also told ABC News that while there are cameras on the cell block where Epstein had been held, it does not appear that cameras are trained on individual cells in the special housing unit. Therefore it’s unlikely there’s video showing Epstein’s death by suicide.

Barr additionally said he was “angered” about what he described as the Manhattan Correctional Center’s “failure” to secure Epstein, and highlighted what he called “irregularities” in the MCC’s system that have already surfaced in the early stages of the DOJ investigations.

“We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation,” Barr said. “We will get to the bottom of it, and there will be accountability.”

The day after Epstein’s death in prison, Barr announced he had asked the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General to investigate the circumstances surrounding the matter, in addition to an FBI investigation that already launched. A source familiar with the investigation told ABC News on Sunday that Barr instructed FBI deputy director David Bowdich to update Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen every three hours on their investigation and that Rosen has been in constant communication with Barr.

“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” Barr said in a statement Saturday. “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered.”

 Barr’s remarks follow several scathing rebukes of the Justice Department from lawmakers like Sen. Ben Sasse, who in a statement Saturday said that there was no excuse for Epstein to be approved to be taken off of suicide watch.

“Every single person in the Justice Department — from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer — knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him,” Sasse, R-Neb., said. “Given Epstein’s previous attempted suicide, he should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance. Obviously, heads must roll.”

In addition to Barr, the House Judiciary Committee is also seeking answers over Epstein’s death. A bipartisan letter from the committee was sent to the Bureau of Prisons asking 23 questions related to the death of Epstein.

“The Attorney General has stated that the FBI and the Inspector General of the Department of Justice are investigating the death of Mr. Epstein, and we look forward to learning the results of their inquiries,” according to the letter. “However, it is imperative that the Committee on the Judiciary, which has the responsibility to exercise oversight over the Department of Justice, receive responses to these questions related to the adequacy of BOP’s suicide prevention policies and their implementation in this instance, as soon as possible.”

The letter, which is signed by chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., asks for a response by Aug. 21.

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