Paul L. Caron

Monday, December 2, 2019

NY Times: How Losing His Charity's Tax-Exempt Status Freed Jeffrey Epstein To Wildly Exaggerate His Philanthropy


New York Times, Jeffrey Epstein’s Charity: An Image Boost Built on Deception:

Jeffrey Epstein’s foundation looked for all the world like a charitable powerhouse: On its websites and in its press releases, the foundation was described as a patron of hospitals, universities and film festivals, run by a global philanthropist.

The organization — known by various names, but usually called the J. Epstein Virgin Islands Foundation — wasn’t officially a charity for much of its existence, having lost its tax-exempt status in 2008.

But it worked to his advantage, helping improve the reputation of Mr. Epstein, a convicted sex offender.

A review of tax documents, government records and information provided by federal officials shows that the foundation lost its tax-exempt status for an unknown reason in the same year Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor.

In the years between that case and his suicide in August as he faced federal sex-trafficking charges, Mr. Epstein was unshackled from the rigorous financial disclosures that charities are supposed to file every year with the government — allowing him to exaggerate his philanthropy as he sought to rebuild his reputation.

The foundation’s portrayals of its giving ranged from simple embellishment to staggering overstatement. ... [T]he most glaring exaggeration appeared on Wikipedia. A user name apparently connected to Mr. Epstein edited the page for the foundation and put its annual outlay at $200 million a year — just under the amount the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg contributed to charity in 2018.

In reality, the foundation was worth a small fraction of that amount, according to documents obtained by The New York Times through a public records lawsuit in the Virgin Islands.

Eighteen years of financial statements show that just under $20 million flowed into the foundation since it was founded in 2000. Roughly $16.6 million was spent on donations and grants; most of the rest paid unspecified “general and administrative” expenses and $1.5 million in interest for what appears to be an undisclosed debt.

The documents, which were filed with the Virgin Islands Division of Corporations and Trademarks, do not offer details about where the money came from or ended up. That information would be contained in the public document, Form 990, that charities are required to file each year with the Internal Revenue Service. But there is just one publicly available Form 990 from the foundation — a single-page filing in 2002 — and it does not include any information on grants or donations.

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I'm not sure it takes much courage to pile on Epstein now. How many people were addressing these issues ten years ago?

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Dec 2, 2019 8:02:52 PM