Exclusive: Some charities to refuse money from U.S. financier accused in sex case

Mon Feb 2, 2015 1:03pm EST
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By David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some charities that have received money from U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein said they are reviewing their relationships with him or will decline to accept any future gifts from him in the wake of recent allegations he forced an underage girl to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew and other powerful men.

Epstein, 62, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring an underage girl for prostitution and served a year in a Florida jail, has long burnished his reputation as a philanthropist through a series of foundations that he says have given millions of dollars to institutions ranging from Harvard University to a New York junior tennis league.

The allegations involving Epstein became a tabloid sensation on both sides of the Atlantic after lawyers for one of Epstein's accusers made them in a court filing just over a month ago. It prompted strong denials from Prince Andrew and from prominent U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who was also accused of having sex with the girl.

The filing has also renewed questions about Epstein's once close links to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, though there are no allegations of any wrongdoing by Clinton.

In interviews with Reuters, three recipients of Epstein's money said they would accept no more gifts, at least while the recent allegations are under review. They are a cancer researcher at New York City's Mount Sinai hospital who with colleagues received $50,000 in seed funding; a mentoring program for young Swedish businesswomen that got $30,000; and Ballet Palm Beach in Florida, which declined to say how much Epstein gave.

"The further I can keep myself from anything like that the better," Ballet Palm Beach founder Colleen Smith said in a phone interview.

Epstein did not respond to interview requests. In response to two pages of written questions from Reuters, a lawyer for Epstein said the financier's philanthropy has been widespread for an extensive period of time.

"His efforts include making substantial contributions to scientific and medical progress and in helping children in providing them with the educational and technological tools necessary for their having a chance to succeed," the lawyer, Martin Weinberg, said in an emailed statement. "It would be unfortunate if the recent media activity would in any way adversely impact Mr. Epstein's efforts in any of these areas," he added.   Continued...

Jeffrey Epstein is shown in this undated Florida Department of Law Enforcement photo. REUTERS/Florida Department of Law Enforcement/Handout