FBI: Epstein's death a possible 'criminal enterprise'
Officials testified the FBI has not ruled out criminal wrongdoing in Epstein's death
WASHINGTON — Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he died in his jail cell in August were charged on Tuesday with falsifying prison records to make it appear they were doing their jobs.
Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, correctional officers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, were charged with making false records and conspiring to interfere with the functions of the federal prison.
Noel and Thomas are accused of failing to check on Epstein every half hour, as required, and of falsifying prison logs to make it appear that they had been monitoring the Palm Beach multimillionaire and sex offender on Aug. 9 and 10.
Instead of checking on Epstein regularly, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday, Noel and Thomas “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area of the SHU (Special Housing Unit).”
To cover up their failure, the indictment charges, Noel and Thomas “repeatedly signed false certifications attesting to having conducted multiple counts of inmates when, in truth and in fact, they never conducted such counts.”
Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell on Aug. 10. He was on suicide watch and awaiting trial on charges of trafficking teenage girls for sex.
The New York City coroner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide by hanging — a finding that has since been challenged by a noted pathologist hired by Epstein’s brother to monitor the autopsy.
The charges were unsealed on the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing on the federal Bureau of Prisons.
The nation’s top prison administrator, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, told the committee that FBI agents investigating Jeffrey Epstein’s death are looking at the possibility that a “criminal enterprise” played a role in his suicide.
Sawyer, director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, was taking questions when Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked about the FBI investigation.
“With a case this high profile, there has got to be either a major malfunction of the system or a criminal enterprise afoot to allow this to happen,” Graham said. “So are you looking at both? Is the FBI looking at both?”
“The FBI is involved and they are looking at criminal enterprise, yes,” Sawyer replied.
Later during Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, lambasted the federal prison system and laid out his own theory on what may have happened to Epstein.
“What happened to Jeffrey Epstein is an enormous black eye for the BOP,” Cruz said, using the acronym for the Bureau of Prisons, “and yet he died in federal custody. He died in federal custody before he had a chance to testify about his crimes, about his wrongdoings, and about the other powerful men who were complicit in that sexual abuse. ... There were powerful men who wanted Jeffrey Epstein silenced.”
Cruz floated “two possibilities” for what happened to Epstein. The first was “gross negligence and total failure of BOP to do its job.” The second, he said, was “something far worse ... that it was not suicide but rather a homicide carried out by person or persons who wanted Epstein silenced.”
The Texas senator then asked Sawyer whether she saw “any indication” that Epstein was murdered.
Sawyer replied: “There’s no indication, from anything I know, that it as anything other than a suicide.”