Two New York City prison guards in charge of checking up on Jeffrey Epstein reportedly fell asleep and later falsified documents in an attempt to cover up their mistake on the eve of the alleged child sex trafficker’s apparent suicide.
According to the New York Times, the guards dozed off for three hours, causing them to miss the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s routine prisoner check. They then forged their supervision logs, which could come with criminal charges. On Tuesday, federal authorities removed the prison warden and the pair of guards from their roles.
The move by the Justice Department came amid mounting evidence that the chronically understaffed Metropolitan Correctional Center may have bungled its responsibility to keep the 66-year-old Epstein from harming himself while he awaited trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.
Epstein was taken off suicide watch last month for reasons that have not been explained — and was supposed to have been checked on by a guard every 30 minutes. However, investigators learned those checks were not done for several hours before he was found Saturday morning. According to the New York Post, the wealthy criminal was found with a bedsheet wrapped around his neck that was tied to his bunk bed. “The convicted pedophile, who was 6 feet tall, apparently killed himself by kneeling toward the floor and strangling himself with the makeshift noose, a law enforcement source said Monday,” per the Post.
Under the jail’s protocol, Epstein would not have been given a bedsheet had he been on suicide watch, the Associated Press reports. He was placed on suicide watch last month after he was found on the floor of his cell with bruises on his neck, but he was later returned to the jail’s special housing unit for inmates needing close supervision.
On Monday, Barr said that he was “frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner,” adding: “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.”
“Let me assure you this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it,” he added.
The guards on Epstein’s unit the night of his apparent suicide were working overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages, two people familiar with the matter said. One of the guards, who had a different job in the jail and did not regularly perform correctional officer duties, was working a fifth straight day of overtime and the other guard was working mandatory overtime, the people said.
Epstein was being held without bail on federal sex trafficking charges that could have brought 45 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors in New York are pursuing a parallel investigation into whether any of his associates will face charges for assisting him in what authorities say was his rampant sexual abuse of girls as young as 14.
Ghislaine Maxwell, believed to have been Epstein’s former girlfriend and personal assistant, is one of the financier’s alleged co-conspirators and may still face charges. She is accused of recruiting teenage girls for Epstein and his friends.
Over a dozen FBI agents raided Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean on Monday in a sign that the case against the once high-flying businessman will continue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.