Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attend de Grisogono Sponsors The 2005 Wall Street Concert Series Benefiting Wall Street Rising, with a Performance by Rod Stewart at Cipriani Wall Street on March 15, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
- Jeffrey Epstein, the 66-year-old disgraced hedge fund manager, who died from suicide, brought two “Eastern European” models to MIT’s Media Lab in 2015.
- Epstein was expected to meet the faculty and discuss ongoing projects for additional funding.
- As the trip was being planned, director Joi Ito reportedly told former director of development and strategy Peter Cohen, that Epstein “never goes into any room without his two female ‘assistants.'”
- “They were models,” one former lab employee told The New Yorker. “Eastern European, definitely.”
- The women in the group “literally had a conversation about how, on the off chance that they’re not there by choice, we could maybe help them,” the former employee said.
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Jeffrey Epstein, the 66-year-old disgraced hedge fund manager who died in an apparent suicide inside a federal prison in August, brought two “Eastern European” models to MIT’s Media Lab, where staffers discussed how they could help them if they were brought against their will, according to a New Yorker report.
Former development associate and alumni coordinator Signe Swenson, who resigned in 2016 partly due to the lab’s association with Epstein, said that in 2015, Epstein was scheduled to make a trip to the campus. Epstein was expected to meet the faculty and discuss ongoing projects for additional funding.
As the trip was being planned, director Joi Ito told former director of dev elopement and strategy Peter Cohen, that Epstein “never goes into any without his two female ‘assistants,'” Swenson told The New Yorker. Swenson objected to the stipulation, but ultimately the decision was made to have the assistants wait outside the room.
“I don’t think he should be on campus,” Swenson said in the report. “At that point it hit me: this pedophile is going to be in our office.”
Swenson said she was disturbed when Epstein and his entourage finally arrived.
“They were models,” Swenson told The New Yorker. “Eastern European, definitely.”
She reportedly added that “all of us women” working in the lab “made it a point to be super nice to them.”
The situation was so uncomfortable that the women in the group “literally had a conversation about how, on the off chance that they’re not there by choice, we could maybe help them,” Swenson said.
Epstein personally donated roughly $800,000 to MIT, but worked as an intermediary between donors to secure at least $7.5 million for its lab, The New Yorker found. Epstein, who pleaded guilty to state counts of soliciting a minor for prostitution and soliciting prostitution in 2008, was disqualified to donate to the university.
But senior lab officials circumvented the blacklist by concealing his involvement in the donations. Using Epstein’s initials, Ito and other lab staffers identified him in on calendars — whereas other names were fully spelled out.
“Make sure this gets accounted for as anonymous,” Ito wrote to the Cohen in an email regarding a direct $100,000 donation from Epstein.
Lab staffers were so accustomed to Epstein’s anonymity that Ito referred to him as “he who must not be named,”or “Voldemort,” in an apparent reference to the antagonist in the “Harry Potter” series.
Swenson alleged in the report that the lab was fully aware of its tendency to conceal Epstein’s ties to the university. She said that her experience, and her involvement, led her to feel guilty to this day.
“I was a participant in covering up for Epstein in 2014,” Swenson reportedly said. “Listening to what comments are coming out of the lab or MIT about the relationship — I just see exactly the same thing happening again.”
MIT president L. Rafael Reif offered an apology for accepting Epstein’s donations and committed “an amount equal to the funds MIT received from any Epstein foundation to an appropriate charity that benefits his victims or other victims of sexual abuse.”
Ito apologized and said he would be returning an unspecified amount of the $1.2 million in private investment funds he received. Ito said he was also raising the same amount of Epstein’s donations to the lab, and donating it to non profit group working to help sex trafficking victims.
Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in July, and had been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and faced a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.
He was found unresponsive in his cell in August, in an apparent suicide.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.