by Bob Fitrakis
Epstein came to my attention when I was an investigative journalist for one of Columbus, Ohio’s alternative newsweeklies, Columbus Alive. Not many people know that the infamous Jeffrey Epstein spent a lot of time in Columbus in the 1990s and owned the second most valuable house in Franklin County (where Columbus resides), in the plush Stepford suburb known as New Albany. I investigated central Ohio billionaire Les Wexner’s and Jeff Epstein’s ties to the intelligence community more than 20 years ago. Much of this is captured in two books – The Fitrakis Files: Spooks, Nukes, and Nazis and The Fitrakis Files: Cops, Coverups, and Corruption (CICJ Books, freepress.org).
The late State of Ohio Inspector General David Sturtz, one of my sources, was gathering evidence against Les Wexner and Jeff Epstein regarding public corruption, bribery and information related to the murder of Columbus attorney Arthur Shapiro. The ghost of Arthur Shapiro—a prominent local attorney who was slain in a 1985 “mob-style murder”—continues to haunt the city of Columbus.
Columbus Alive obtained a copy of the “Shapiro Homicide Investigation: Analysis and Hypothesis” report through a public records request. The report confirms that the name of Leslie Wexner, owner of the Limited Brands (now L Brands, including Victoria’s Secret), was linked “with associates reputed to be organized crime figures.”
Shapiro was a partner in the now-defunct Columbus law firm of Schwartz, Shapiro, Kelm & Warren. The firm “represented the Limited,” according to the report, and “prior to his death, Arthur Shapiro managed this account for the law firm.” Homicide squad investigators described Shapiro as “a quiet, shy, private, secretive person” who “tended to be a ‘loner.’”
Just prior to his murder, Shapiro “was the subject of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service because he had failed to file income tax returns for some seven years prior to his death, and he had invested in some questionable tax shelters,” the report stated. His death “occurred one day prior to Shapiro’s scheduled appearance before a Grand Jury in the I.R.S. investigation, and there was some conjecture that Shapiro was in position to provide information to the Grand Jury that would have been damaging to some other party.”
An entire analysis of the murder investigation is documented in “The Shapiro Murder File.”
Epstein was perceived by Sturtz and then-Franklin County Sheriff Earl Smith as Shapiro’s replacement.
Sturtz referred to Epstein as Wexner’s “boyfriend,” but Epstein was more than that. He was an “international man of mystery” with ties to the CIA, the royal family, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and others. And at the heart of it, he is perhaps our nation’s most well-known pedophile. Echoing Greek tragedies, Wexner, with his name on more central Ohio buildings than anyone and known for his generous philanthropy, was caught up in Epstein’s human trafficking scandal.
Epstein and Wexner reportedly met in 1985 when they were introduced by Bob Meister, an insurance mogul. Wexner and Epstein’s real estate dealings go back to at least 1989 when they jointly purchased a mansion in Manhattan described as the second largest residence in New York City.
Wexner granted Epstein durable power of attorney over all of his economic dealings in July 1991.
In 1998, business documents identified Epstein as president, along with Wexner, of the New Albany Company. Epstein owned the house on King George Drive in New Albany from 1994 until December 2007 when he gave it to Wexner with no money exchanged. Also in 1998, Wexner transferred his interest in their Manhattan property for $20 million to Epstein.
A December 1995 Architectural Digest article and a follow-up 1996 New York Times report detailed the inner sanctum of Wexner’s former Manhattan townhouse, one of the largest in the city.
“Visitors described a bathroom reminiscent of James Bond movies: hidden beneath a stairway, lined with lead to provide shelter from attack and supplied with closed-circuit television screens and a telephone, both concealed in a cabinet beneath the sink,” wrote the Times.
Epstein, who is known to have flown President Clinton several times on his jet obtained from the Limited, was usually seen in the company of Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of deceased publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell. After Maxwell fell off, or was pushed off, his yacht in 1991, it was revealed that Maxwell was working for the Israeli government and the Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence service. While Maxwell’s ties to the Mossad are well-documented, Epstein’s connections are less well known. The London Sunday Times quoted a New York social observer describing Epstein as follows: “He’s Mr. Enigmatic. Nobody knows whether he’s a concert pianist, property developer, a CIA agent, a math teacher or a member of Mossad.” New York Magazine claims Epstein is the man who moves Wexner’s billions around the globe.
Sturtz revealed files listing Epstain as person of interest in the death of Maxwell.
As the logistics man for Wexner, Epstein arranged the arrival of Southern Air Transport (SAT) to Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio. The airline, formerly Air America, was infamous as an illegal gun- and drug-running operation. SAT filed for bankruptcy in Columbus on October 1, 1998, the same day the Central Intelligence Agency Inspector General issued a report linking the cargo hauler to allegations of drug-running in connection with U.S.-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Once lauded as a coup for central Ohio development, landing Southern Air Transport’s business at Rickenbacker eventually turned into a nightmare, as the enterprise became mired in massive debt and was closed under a cloud of suspicion about its true activities.
How did such a notorious company come to set up shop in central Ohio? Then-Franklin County Commissioner Dorothy Teater, then a candidate running for mayor of Columbus, told Columbus Alive that she was not aware of Southern Air’s ties to the CIA. “If it’s true, that’s awful,” she said, adding the push to land SAT in Ohio came from the state Department of Development.
Edmund James, president of James and Donohew Development Services let it be known that “much of the Hong Kong-to-Rickenbacker cargo will be for The Limited.” Brian Clancy, a cargo analyst with MergeGloban Inc., was quoted in the Journal of Commerce: “Limited Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, is based in Columbus, a fact that undoubtedly contributed in large part to Southern Air’s decision.”
The full story of Southern Air Transport can be found in “Spook Air.”
Epstein also helped his mentor, Wexner, sell the war in Iraq through the Wexner Foundation. Moreover, a memo from Epstein’s sentencing in Miami back in 2007, points out that he was cooperating and providing information to the FBI.
The media obtained a leaked document from the Wexner Foundation entitled, “Wexner Analysis: Israeli Communication Priorities 2003.” The report was prepared to sell the war in Iraq and provides insight into Wexner’s relationship with the state of Israel.
Wexner’s philanthropic side is more public. In 1998, the Wall Street Journal reported that Wexner was part of the “‘Mega Group,’ a loosely organized club of 20 of the nation’s wealthiest and most influential Jewish businessmen.” The Mega Group meets purportedly to discuss “philanthropy,” but others have speculated that their charitable interests are often a cover for lobbying activities on behalf of Israel. The Wall Street Journalidentified the late Max Fisher, a Detroit financier and billionaire, as a member of the Mega Group. Fisher was used as a private Middle East diplomat by President Gerald Ford during the 1970s and is considered Wexner’s mentor.
The Wexner Analysis points out that “. . . many sympathize with the plight of the Palestinian people, [but] there is no love lost for Yassir Arafat.” So, when the Wexner Analysis report was leaked, it caused a stir but no questioning of Wexner’s little-explored relationships with Epstein and Fisher. Frank Lutz, the Republican Party pollster and spin doctor, prepared the Wexner Analysis. Lutz’s report essentially outlines a political PR campaign “as the post-war dust settles over the Iraqi desert.”
The Wexner Analysis emphasized that “now is the time to link American success in dealing with terrorism and dictators from a position of strength to Israel’s ongoing efforts to eradicate terrorism on and within its borders.”
Lutz, realizing the value of an Arab bogeymen, stresses that “‘Saddam Hussein’ are the two words that tie Israel to America and are most likely to deliver support in Congress. The day we allow Saddam to take his eventual place in the trash heap of history is the day we lose our strongest weapon in the linguistic defense of Israel.”
In the “Essential Conclusion” section of the report, Lutz offers 10 recommendations. The first is: “Iraq colors all. Saddam is your best defense, even if he is dead. For a year–a SOLID YEAR–you should be invoking the name of Saddam Hussein and how Israel was always behind American efforts to rid the world of this ruthless dictator and liberate their people.”
I wrote the story “The Wexner War” on this topic.
Sturtz believed that both Wexner and Epstein had ties to foreign intelligence.
As journalist Vicky Ward pointed out in “Jeffrey Epstein’s Sick Story Played Out For Years in Plain Sight,” Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney who went light on Epstein in a 2007 deal, became the Secretary of Labor under Trump. Reportedly he told the people vetting him in the Trump administration: “I was told Epstein belonged to intelligence and to leave it alone.”
So, Jeff Epstein “committed suicide” while on suicide watch in prison. This was widely predicted, since Epstein, in part to gratify himself, was running one of the world’s most notorious “honey traps.” if you were rich or powerful and liked underage girls, Epstein was your guy. Now that Epstein’s gone, the likes of Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson can breathe easier.
Sexual blackmail is an old, tried and true technique. Usually it succeeds because the elite decision makers are protected. To end the exploitation, everything must be exposed whether you are a crowned prince or a president. The civil suit charging that current President Donald Trump raped a 13-year-old girl at Epstein’s mansion in New York could still be brought forward. Hopefully the criminal investigation on this in Manhattan will go forth despite Epstein’s unfortunate but unsurprisingly “suicide.”
This article is a compliation of Fitrakis’ past articles on Jeffrey Epstein. Bob Fitrakis has investigated Jeffrey Epstein since 1995. Fitrakis appears in the recent Netflix documentary Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.