By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jeffrey Epstein's estate was sued on Wednesday by the U.S. Virgin Islands, which claimed that the late accused sex offender raped and trafficked in dozens of young women and girls on a private Caribbean island he owned.
The complaint filed by Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George significantly broadens the scope of the financier's alleged misconduct, saying it spanned from 2001 to 2018 and targeted girls who appeared to be as young as 11 or 12.
It seeks civil penalties plus some assets from Epstein's estimated $577.7 million estate, including the forfeiture of his two private islands, Little St. James and Great St. James.
Wednesday's lawsuit could reduce the sums available for the more than 20 other Epstein accusers already suing the estate, after his suicide cost them a chance to see him convicted.
Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, the estate's executors, have set up a fund to compensate victims.
In a statement sent on their behalf, a lawyer rejected George's contention that the fund subjects claimants to "confidentiality requirements," and said the fund is not intended to shield anyone from liability.
Epstein died last Aug. 10 at age 66 by hanging himself in a Manhattan jail cell, after pleading not guilty to abusing and trafficking in women and girls in Manhattan and Florida from 2002 to 2005.
He had pleaded guilty in 2008 to a Florida state prostitution charge, and completed a 13-month jail sentence now widely considered too lenient.
Epstein was also friends with people like Britain's Prince Andrew, who retreated from public life in November after a disastrous TV interview where he appeared unsympathetic to the financier's victims.
According to the complaint, Epstein, with help from accomplices, "trafficked, raped, sexually assaulted and held captive" girls and young women at his properties in the Virgin Islands, where he had registered as a sex offender in 2010.
The complaint said Epstein kept a computerized database to track girls who could be sent to Little St. James, which he bought in 1998 as "the perfect hideaway" to traffic them "for sexual servitude, child abuse and sexual assault."
Epstein then allegedly bought nearby Great St. James in 2016, using a straw purchaser to conceal his identity, to keep people from monitoring him from there, and keep victims from escaping there.
As recently as July 2018, Epstein refused to let a Virgin Islands investigator and U.S. marshals enter Little St. James beyond its dock, which he called its "front door," the complaint said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown, Cynthia Osterman, Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft)