Jeffrey Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion is being demolished in the hopes of cleansing the area of his crimes.
The waterfront property was purchased by a real estate developer for a reported $US18 million ($23 million).
Florida-based developer Todd Michael Glaser said it would be personally satisfying to tear the property down and build a new mansion in its place.
“Palm Beach is going to be very happy that it’s gone,” he said.
The 1300-square-metre house had six bedrooms and seven bathrooms – most of which were private en suites.
There was a large pool between the back entrance and the shoreline of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Despite its grandeur, the gated estate is modest for the area, which is largely made up of extravagant holiday homes.
Many are occupied only during the summer months, leaving the area eerily quiet during the off-season.
It’s one of at least three homes the Epstein estate is selling in the liquidation of his assets, including one on a private island in the Virgin Islands and one in Manhattan.
A sex trafficking pyramid scheme
The mansion marks the beginning of investigations into Epstein’s paedophilic sex trafficking operation.
Investigations into Epstein began in 2005 when a 14-year-old girl reported that she had been molested by him at the Palm Beach mansion.
She said a female classmate at the local high school had taken her to the house to give him a massage in exchange for money.
A subsequent police investigation found telephone message slips in the garbage bearing the names of the teenager and several others.
In the years that followed, investigators unearthed a massive network of sex trafficking of girls as young as 14 between 1999 and 2007.
“This was not a ‘he said, she said’ situation,” said retired Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter.
“This was 50-something ‘shes’ and one ‘he’ – and the ‘shes’ all basically told the same story.”
The lead detective on the case, Joseph Recarey, said Epstein’s operation worked like a sexual pyramid scheme.
“The common interview with a girl went like this: ‘I was brought there by so and so. I didn’t feel comfortable with what happened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn’t feel comfortable, I could bring someone else and still get paid,’ ” Mr Recarey said.
During the massage sessions, Epstein would bargain with the girls, offering to pay them extra for engaging in sex acts.
Accusers alleged the girls were offered even more money if they recruited others.
One of Epstein’s accusers, Courtney Wild, said she was introduced to him in 2002 at the age of 14.
“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years,” Ms Wild said.
Most of the girls said they entered via a side door, where they were led through the kitchen and up a pink carpeted staircase to the main bedroom, the police report said.
Investigators alleged the operation spanned further than Palm Beach.
Epstein was accused of running the paedophile ring from his Manhattan estate and his private island in the US Virgin Islands, as well.
Epstein’s lawyers reached a plea deal to avoid federal sex trafficking charges in the 2008 case.
He instead pleaded guilty to lesser Florida state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution.
He spent 13 months in jail and registered as a sex offender, avoiding a possible life sentence.
When further charges were brought against him in 2019, Epstein’s lawyers argued it was “ancient stuff”, that the matter had been settled with the plea agreement in 2008.
Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 while he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges that alleged he abused women and girls under the age of 18 at the Florida estate and his Manhattan mansion in the early 2000s.
His girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell remains in custody on charges of sex trafficking relating to the Palm Beach operation.
She has pleaded not guilty and a trial is set for July.
Epstein invited celebrities to stay
Epstein was well known for his high-profile connections.
Through Ms Maxwell, a British socialite, Epstein developed a friendship with Britain’s Prince Andrew.
Court documents alleged that Epstein instructed Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a 15-year-old employee at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Largo resort, mere kilometres from Epstein’s estate, to have sex with Prince Andrew.
Buckingham Palace said in 2015 that the allegations against Prince Andrew were “false and without any foundation”.
Former US presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton were also friends of Epstein.
In 2002, Mr Trump said: “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. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
Mr Trump, Mr Clinton and Prince Andrew have all admitted to spending time at the Palm Beach mansion.
Despite the ties to Epstein, no proof has been unearthed that any of them took part in the abuse.
In 2017, a spokesperson for Mr Trump denied the former US president having any relationship with Epstein.
Trump Organisation lawyer Alan Garten said Mr Trump “had no relationship with Mr Epstein and had no knowledge whatsoever of his conduct”.
Similarly, a spokesperson for Mr Clinton issued a statement in 2019 denying ties between Mr Clinton and Epstein.