Jeffrey Epstein: Why He Symbolized Privilege and Depravity

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier indicted on sex-trafficking charges, hanged himself in a Manhattan jail on Saturday morning in a suicide, officials said.

He was found at about 6:30 a.m. at the Metropolitan Correctional Center and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors last month charged Mr. Epstein, 66, with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14, and details of his disturbing behavior had been emerging for years.

On Friday, a cache of previously sealed legal documents provided new, disturbing details about what went on inside Mr. Epstein’s homes and how his associates recruited young women and girls.

The documents — among the most expansive sets of materials publicly disclosed in the 13 years since he was first charged — included testimony from a woman named Virginia Giuffre, who claimed that Mr. Epstein had forced her into being a “sex slave.”

As part of an agreement with federal prosecutors to evade federal sex crimes charges in Florida, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to two state prostitution charges and served 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail.

Officials allowed him to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week, outside the jail in order to work.

After Mr. Epstein left the jail, he began a media campaign to remake his image. The effort led to the publication of articles on websites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost describing him as a selfless and forward-thinking philanthropist with an interest in science.

In February, a federal judge ruled that prosecutors who had been led by R. Alexander Acosta, who was then United States attorney in Miami and later became the secretary of labor, had violated federal law when they failed to tell victims about an agreement not to prosecute Mr. Epstein.

In June, Julie K. Brown, an investigative journalist for The Miami Herald, published a meticulously researched series of articles about that deal. Her work identified some 80 alleged victims.

On July 12, Mr. Acosta announced his resignation from the Trump administration. Just the previous day, he had defended his role, saying that the intervention of federal prosecutors was what had guaranteed Mr. Epstein would receive jail time.

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Epstein taught at the Dalton School, one of New York’s most esteemed prep schools. There, some students saw Mr. Epstein as an unusual and unsettling figure, willing to violate norms in his encounters with girls.

He worked at the investment bank Bear Stearns for six years before opening his own firm, in 1982, to manage money for wealthy clients.

He liked to portray himself as someone whose business and investing acumen made him indispensable to corporate executives and other leaders, but there is little evidence to support that notion. The financial services that Mr. Epstein provided appear to have been mostly pedestrian, and his list of clients small.

Mr. Epstein nonetheless managed to affix himself to a handful of prominent Wall Street veterans, including James E. Staley, a top JPMorgan Chase executive. When compliance officers at JPMorgan Chase conducted a sweep of their wealthy clients a decade ago, they recommended that the bank cut its ties to Mr. Epstein because his accounts posed unacceptable legal and reputational risks.

He remained a JPMorgan client until 2013.

His circle of friends and acquaintances included many high-profile figures, including President Trump, former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain and Leslie Wexner, a business mogul who owns Victoria’s Secret and other retail brands.

At least one night that Mr. Epstein and Mr. Trump shared in the company of dozens of N.F.L. cheerleaders was documented on camera.

Mr. Epstein’s Manhattan home featured photos of Mr. Clinton, Woody Allen and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Epstein also attracted a glittering array of prominent scientists. Over the years, he confided to scientists and others about his hope to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch, according to four people familiar with his thinking. There is no evidence that Mr. Epstein took steps toward carrying out those plans.

And last month, a former Israeli leader who unsuccessfully sought to topple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel faced scrutiny over his ties to Mr. Epstein. The leader, Ehud Barak, received some $2.3 million in payments from a foundation associated with Mr. Epstein from 2004 to 2006, and Mr. Epstein invested a reported $1 million in a limited partnership established by Mr. Barak in 2015.