By Danica Coto | Associated Press
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands — Ask about Jeffrey Epstein on St. Thomas and rooms go quiet. Some people leave. Those who share stories speak in barely audible tones.
The 66-year-old billionaire bought Little St. James Island off this U.S. Caribbean territory more than two decades ago and began to transform it — clearing the native vegetation, ringing the property with towering palm trees and planting two massive U.S. flags on either end. When guides took scuba divers to spots near the island, security guards would walk to the water’s edge.
It was off-putting to residents of St. Thomas — a lush tropical island east of Puerto Rico with winding roads through mountains dotted with dainty Danish colonial-era homes. Then, when Epstein pleaded guilty in a 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, his need for privacy began to appear more sinister.
“Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,’” said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. “It’s our dark corner.”
Many people who worked for Epstein told The Associated Press this week that they had signed long non-disclosure agreements, and refused to talk. One former employee who declined to be identified said Epstein once had five boats, including a large ferry in which he transported up to 200 workers from St. Thomas to his island every day for construction work.
The man said he saw a handful of young women when he was on Epstein’s property but he believed they were older than 18.
“When he was there, it was keep to yourself and do your thing,” the man recalled, adding that Epstein paid well and would give away older machinery and surplus including lumber to his employees.
Epstein built a stone mansion with cream-colored walls and a bright turquoise roof surrounded by several other structures including the maids’ quarters and a massive, square-shaped white building on one end of the island. Workers told each other it was a music room fitted with a grand piano and acoustic walls. Its gold dome flew off during the deadly 2017 hurricane season. Locals recalled seeing Epstein’s black helicopter flying back and forth from the tiny international airport in St. Thomas to his helipad on Little St. James Island, a roughly 75-acre retreat a little over a mile southeast of St. Thomas.
Government documents and ledgers show that Little St. James Island was once known as Mingo Cay. In April 1998, a company called L.S.J. LLC bought it for $7.95 million. Additional documents showed that Epstein is the sole member of L.S.J., with his signature reminiscent of an infinity loop.
Epstein later bought neighboring Great St. James Island, which once was popular with locals and tourists for its main attraction, Christmas Cove, a place where you could hang out and order pizza and have it delivered via boat.
“He wasn’t well received,” recalled Spencer Consolvo, a St. Thomas native who runs a tourist shop near a large marina. “People think he’s too rich to be policed properly.”
According to public records obtained by the …read more
Source:: The Mercury News