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Where Does The Epstein Criminal Investigation Go Now That The Main Defendant Is Dead?

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The man accused of operating a longtime sex-trafficking ring is now dead. Jeffrey Epstein allegedly killed himself in his federal jail cell this weekend, and federal prosecutors who have been piecing together the case against him say their investigation will continue even though the central defendant is no longer alive. So how do federal authorities build the narrative of what happened when the case against the main suspect is now over?

With us to discuss the various threads left to pursue is Cynthia Schnedar. She's a former sex crimes prosecutor and worked in the Justice Department under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Welcome.

CYNTHIA SCHNEDAR: Thank you.

CHANG: So the main question on many people's minds after Epstein's death, as so many of these details have been laid out in news reports and from victims who have come forward, is - how can justice still be served now that Jeffrey Epstein is dead? There was this conspiracy charge against Epstein in the indictment. What does that conspiracy charge suggest about the next phases of this case?

SCHNEDAR: It's clear from the indictment that he was not acting alone. He used others to procure his victims. They are unnamed right now in the indictment, but the Southern District of New York has already said they're working on it. So they are going to find the ones who were working with Jeffrey Epstein and procuring his victims and charge those others who were helping him.

CHANG: We should make clear that the 2007 non-prosecution agreement between Epstein and federal prosecutors in Florida - that in that agreement, there was a decision not to prosecute certain co-conspirators back then. But that 2007 agreement does not in any way bind the federal investigators working in New York at the moment. Correct?

SCHNEDAR: It depends. It may be challenging for the Southern District of New York to get around that. But they found a way to get around it when it came to charging Jeffrey Epstein, so it will all depend on what the terms of that prior agreement said. But they're going to be very aggressive in trying to do that. And in addition, there may be others who were not named back in the Florida case who can be found and brought forward and charged.

CHANG: The people who are unnamed in the current indictment - describe what roles they played in the alleged conspiracy.

SCHNEDAR: The indictment describes those who were helping Jeffrey Epstein by bringing the victims in and then, after the sexual assaults occurred, giving them money or giving them other favors. And so they, in essence, were procuring his victims on his behalf.

CHANG: And there are allegations that Epstein arranged for underage girls to have sex with other men. Do we expect any of those other men to be charged with crimes?

SCHNEDAR: Absolutely. I think that the Southern District of New York is trying very hard to investigate that. And if they can identify that and get the evidence to support it, we can expect to see additional charges.

CHANG: There is likely an investigation into Epstein's finances now - I mean, how he amassed his wealth, where was his wealth getting funneled, etc. How can that investigation help shed light on what happened to these girls and young women, you think?

SCHNEDAR: It's clear it was a sex-trafficking conspiracy, and money was critical. So I think the more that the prosecutors know about his assets, the more they can track what his acts were, what - where he was getting his victims - and so that could also lead them to others who were involved in this sex-trafficking ring.

CHANG: Can we expect any other kinds of civil actions to be pursued, other legal avenues that can help shed light on what happened and bring justice?

SCHNEDAR: I think the victims not only will be suing Jeffrey Epstein. But to the extent they can find others who are identified, we may see civil lawsuits against other men who engaged in this assaultive behavior. And through the lawsuits themselves, we may learn more about who was involved and how it operated.

CHANG: Cynthia Schnedar is a former sex crimes prosecutor.

Thank you very much for joining us.

SCHNEDAR: Thank you. My pleasure to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.