The billionaire behind the Victoria’s Secret lingerie chain has said that financierand accused child abuser Jeffrey Epstein “misappropriated” more than $46m of his personal fortune, according to a report.
Leslie Wexner, the founder and chief executive of L Brands Inc, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, said money went missing a decade ago, according to a letter to the Wexner Foundation, seen by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.
It was reportedly discovered the funds were missing after he decided to sever ties with Epstein in 2007. Wexner wrote that he began to cut ties with the financier after allegations against Epstein surfaced in 2006 involving sexual abuse of underage girls.
Last month, Epstein pleaded not guilty in New York to new sex-trafficking charges. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted and is currently in detention, denied bail. Epstein, who took on money management for a raft of wealthy clients, served time in prison in Florida around a decade ago after a controversial plea deal that involved avoiding federal charges.
Wexner’s allegations focus on $46m of investments in a Wexner charitable fund controlled by Epstein. Wexner said that as he severed the relationship, he discovered Epstein had returned only a portion of the money in the fund. He declined to say if he had reported the loss to authorities.
“We discovered that he had misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family,” Wexner said. “This was, frankly, a tremendous shock, even though it clearly pales in comparison to the unthinkable allegations against him now.”
Wexner hired Epstein in 1991 to manage his money, giving him vast power over his investment and tax affairs. The Journal has previously reported on how important Wexner was to Epstein’s success as a financier. Epstein reportedly made more than $200m from the deal.
“I am embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr Epstein,” Wexner said in his letter. “I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path.”
In a message to L Brand employees last month, Wexner denied any knowledge of Epstein’s alleged criminal acts and said he would “not have continued to work with any individual capable of such egregious, sickening behavior”.
The allegations of fraud come as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered a state criminal investigation of a Palm Beach sheriff and former Palm Beach state attorney over their handling of Epstein’s 2007 sex abuse case. The handling of the case has already cost Trump’s secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta, his post.
Acosta was the US attorney in Miami when he oversaw a non-prosecution agreement for Epstein in 2008.
The latest investigation, reports the Miami Herald, is likely to focus on the lenient work privileges Epstein enjoyed while serving a 13-month sentence for soliciting prostitution from underage girls, the product of a controversial 2008 deal with federal authorities.
The financier was allowed to work from his office six days a week, according to Palm Beach county sheriff’s records released to the Associated Press. His personal limousine picked him up from jail as early as 7.15am and dropped him off as late as 10.40pm.
Two weeks ago, Bradley Edwards, a Florida attorney who has represented a number of women who sued Acosta for withholding information about the federal deal from 36 underage alleged victims, accused Epstein of engaging in “improper sexual contact” during his sentence. He did not identify the women allegedly involved.