Two prison guards who were responsible for monitoring Jeffrey Epstein — the wealthy financier, convicted sex offender and accused human sex trafficker who was found dead by hanging in his jail cell on Aug. 10 — have been charged by federal authorities with making false records and conspiring to defraud the U.S.
The indictment claims that the the two correctional officers, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, did not check on the detainees as they were supposed to do, according to The New York Times. It claims the pair instead “sat at their desk, browsed the internet and moved around the common area” and signed documents claiming that they had checked on the inmates despite that being untrue.
“The defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction,” Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement.
Federal prosecutors offered a plea deal last week to the two correctional officers regarding their alleged misconduct on the night of Epstein’s death, according to the Associated Press. The two declined the offer.
At the time of Epstein’s death, Serene Gregg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, defended the guards who were accused of dereliction of duty.
“If it wasn’t Mr. Epstein, it would have been somebody else, because of the conditions at that institution. It wasn’t a matter of how it happened or it happening, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen,” Gregg told The Washington Post in August. “It was inevitable. Our staff is severely overworked.”
Epstein was arrested in July on one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking and faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted. He was accused of seeking out minors as young as 14 from at least 2002 through 2005 and paying them to have sex at his residences in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida.
Epstein’s death has been the subject of much media scrutiny, given accusations that he was connected to wealthy and powerful men in politics. President Donald Trump promoted conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death. He first re-tweeted a news outlet which claimed that “documents were unsealed yesterday revealing that top Democrats, including Bill Clinton, took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘pedophilia island.'”
In a follow up tweet, Trump quoted a comedian who wrote “Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen #JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! RT if you’re not Surprised #EpsteinSuicide #ClintonBodyCount #ClintonCrimeFamily.”
Attorney General William Barr also weighed in at the time, writing that he “was appalled and frankly angry to learn of the [Metropolitan Correctional Center’s] failure to adequately secure this prisoner. We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.”