The fallout from the Saturday arrest of Jeffrey Epstein continues to grow—and the latest allegations touch the art world.
Already a registered sex offender, the billionaire has been charged with sex trafficking and creating “a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit.” Among the latest accusations are those made by 49-year-old Maria Farmer, who, in an affidavit filed in April, claims that Epstein leveraged her dreams of becoming an artist to lure her into his web. She says that Epstein went on to sexually assault both her and her younger sister, who was 15 at the time.
Farmer’s claims appeared as part of another woman’s defamation lawsuit against Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been accused of participating in Epstein’s trafficking operation. Dershowitz has also served as Epstein’s lawyer over the years.
Farmer was a 25-year-old graduate student at the New York Academy of Art when she met Epstein at her art opening in 1995, according to the affidavit. “Epstein said that if I sold him one of my paintings for half price he would help me with my career,” Farmer wrote. She agreed, and sold him a work for $6,000.
Epstein reportedly attended the event with Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite who has been accused of soliciting young girls on Epstein’s behalf, including the plaintiff in the Dershowitz lawsuit, Virginia Giuffre. (Giuffre says she was a 16-year-old locker-room attendant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort when Maxwell recruited her to work as a masseuse for Epstein. Giuffre says that Epstein later “lent” her out to for sex with his friends, including Dershowitz.)
The year after Farmer first met Epstein, he called her and said he wanted someone “to help him with acquiring art.” She agreed to take the job, which she says included both buying art and monitoring who came into his New York City apartment. During this time, she says she saw numerous young girls come to the house, some of them still wearing their school uniforms. She also claims she frequently saw Dershowitz there, and that he would sometimes go upstairs to where the girls were led.
That summer, Epstein arranged for Farmer to work on an art project at the Ohio estate of his friend, billionaire businessman Leslie Wexner. At one point, Epstein and Maxwell came for a visit and sexually assaulted her, she says in the affidavit.
“I fled from the room and called the sheriff’s office but did not get any response,” she wrote. “The Wexner’s security staff refused to let me leave the property. I pleaded with them and my father drove up from Kentucky to Ohio to help me. I was held against my will for approximately 12 hours until I was ultimately allowed to leave with my father.”
When she returned to New York, she filed a report with the police and the FBI, but says she does not know if they took any action.
That same summer, Epstein allegedly flew Farmer’s younger sister to visit him at his New Mexico ranch, where he “directed her to take off all of her clothes and get on a massage table,” whereupon he and Maxwell molested her, according to the affidavit. “It was not until later in the summer… that I learned what had happened to her,” Farmer wrote.
When Farmer returned to New York she was “terrified” of the pair, who she says repeatedly called her making threats. “Maxwell and Epstein contacted my art clients and individuals in the art community in an effort to ruin my art career,” she wrote. They “were successful and I was shut out of all art related opportunities.”
The journalist Vicky Ward said that she heard about Farmer’s allegations while reporting a profile on Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003, but that the magazine’s editor, Graydon Carter, ultimately cut that section from her piece. Ward says she also verified Farmer and her sister’s story with several witnesses, including the artist Eric Fischl, who had been a post-graduate instructor of Farmer’s at the Santa Fe Art Institute. “They all verified,” Ward told Democracy Now. “They remembered these two women recounting their trauma at the time.”
Farmer’s allegations came to light after a Miami Herald investigation revealed that the former US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alexander Acosta, who is now President Trump’s labor secretary, secretly negotiated a sweetheart plea deal for Epstein in 2008, when he was first facing a possible sex crimes indictment. The deal was brokered without the victims’ knowledge.
At the time, federal prosecutors had drafted a 53-count indictment against Epstein. But Acosta agreed not to prosecute if Epstein pleaded guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitutes and registered as a sex offender. In 2009, Epstein completed a 13-month prison sentence in which he was allowed to leave for work six days a week. It was, the Herald said, “one of the most lenient deals for a serial child sex offender in history.”
Epstein’s indictment threatens to ensnare numerous powerful associates, including his friend, former president Bill Clinton, and Trump, who in 2002 called Epstein a “terrific guy” in an interview with New York magazine. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
Farmer says she had to move several times in order to hide from Epstein, who worked to ensure that her art career was “ruined.”
“I have struggled throughout my life as a direct result of Epstein and Maxwell’s actions,” she wrote, “and my hope is that they will be held accountable for their crimes.”
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.