Florida authorities launch internal investigation into handling of Jeffrey Epstein work release

Credit: Florida Department of Law Enforcement via AP, File

Credit: Florida Department of Law Enforcement via AP, File

Authorities in Florida launched an internal investigation Friday into the way sheriff's deputies handled work release for wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2008, after he was accused of sexually abusing underage girls.

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The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office announced the investigation after allegations surfaced that Epstein, 66, had "improper sexual conduct" with young women while on work release in 2008, ABC News reported.

As part of a plea deal overseen by then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to two counts of soliciting a minor for prostitution amid allegations he lured girls as young as 14 to his Palm Beach estate and sexually abused them, according to the Miami Herald. Epstein agreed to register as a sex offender as part of the deal. He served 13 months in jail.

Investigators will look specifically at the decision to allow Epstein to leave prison for 12 hours a day, six days a week for work release while serving out his 13-month sentence, the Herald reported. The decision has been criticized as being overly lenient.

"Sheriff (Ric) Bradshaw takes these matters very seriously and wants to determine if any actions taken by the deputies assigned to monitor Epstein during his work release program violated any agency rules and regulations," deputies said in a news release obtained by WPTV. "All aspects of the matter will be fully investigated to ensure total transparency and accountability."

Epstein remained jailed Friday in New York, where he faces federal sex trafficking charges based on allegations he sexually exploited and abused dozens of girls between 2002 and 2005 at his Manhattan mansion and his Palm Beach County home. The charges carry a maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison, according to The New York Times.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges last week.

Epstein avoided significant jail time and federal prosecution as part of the 2008 plea deal in Florida. Scrutiny of the once-secret deal, detailed in a series of in-depth reports published last year by The Miami Herald, prompted Acosta to resign last week from his role as President Donald Trump's secretary of labor.

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