The Biggest Conspiracy Theories About Jeffrey Epstein

The financier Jeffrey Epstein was considered an enigma during his career in the 1980s and 1990s, with New York magazine running a profile of him in 2002 that claimed that few could say quite how he had amassed a personal fortune worth many millions of dollars. What the world knew was that Epstein was extremely well-connected: his network of friends and admirers included some of the most powerful people in America, including Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, and his reputation for money management preceded him.

However, in the 2000s the shadowy figure was finally disgraced after he was charged with soliciting sex from a minor, a crime of which he was later found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in prison, of which he served 13. USA Today describes the sentence as a "sweetheart deal" for a man who was at the time facing the rest of his life behind bars. Epstein continued to live a life of luxury following his release, but a decade later more details about his sexual crimes, which by then included accusations of sex trafficking, had come to light, and he was back in custody awaiting trial. On August 10, 2019, days before he was expected to give testimony, Epstein died by suicide in his cell. The timing of Epstein's death has been viewed as suspicious by many from across the political spectrum, with some speculating that shadowy forces had intervened to protect others involved in his sexual crimes. Since then, a bevy of conspiracy theories have emerged regarding the disgraced financier — here are the ones that continued to set the internet alight.

Epstein was murdered

Jeffrey Epstein's immense fortune allowed him to purchase his own 75-acre private island, named Little Saint James, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also operated a notorious private jet, dubbed the "Lolita Express," which is reported to have been kitted out with beds and soft furnishings for sex and on which Epstein is said to have hosted many of the powerful men in his network.

Epstein's pilot has confirmed the presence of several high-profile names on the disgraced financier's plane.  Figures such as the British royal Prince Andrew, whose reputation plummeted after details of his friendship with Epstein came to light and he was forced to reach a financial settlement with one alleged sex trafficking victim, have been confirmed as guests at Epstein's residences. Some have speculated that Epstein's death in his jail cell was an organized hit by those who wanted his testimony buried with him. Many have pointed to the fact that Epstein was on suicide watch at the time of his death as evidence that he couldn't possibly have killed himself. Details such as the fact that security cameras in his cell had reportedly malfunctioned have spurred the idea of a cover-up.

The conspiracy theory has been echoed by Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's longtime girlfriend and enabler who is currently serving 20 years in prison for sex trafficking. In an interview Maxwell cast doubt on the findings of the investigation that ruled his death a suicide, claiming that she was certain her former partner was planning to appeal the charges against him. "I was sure he was covered under the non-prosecution agreement," she added (via The Independent).

Epstein faked his death

Another more fanciful conspiracy theory goes that Jeffrey Epstein didn't die back in 2019 at all, but instead was able to fake his own death to avoid facing justice for his alleged sex crimes. Conspiracy theorists have suggested that Epstein was able to use his immense wealth as well as the dirt he supposedly had on famous co-conspirators to elude justice and continue living a life of prestige away from the public eye.

Though various versions of the "Jeffrey Epstein is still alive" theory have permeated the internet in recent years, one particularly popular story claims that the financier, who was often described as a billionaire in the press, is now hiding out at a sprawling rural estate in New Mexico, known as Zorro Ranch and amateur sleuths have been known to head to the property in search of Epstein. USA Today had offered a fact check on the questionable claims offered in such content but has found that there is zero evidence that Epstein is still alive, though it is true that Zorro Ranch was in his property portfolio at the time of his death.

Epstein was a professional blackmailer

Another formerly well-respected public figure to see their reputation plummet after revelations of their links to Jeffrey Epstein is Microsoft founder Bill Gates. As many news outlets reported in 2023, Gates appears to have been a regular companion of Epstein's and was a guest at his properties and on his private plane. But according to The Wall Street Journal, Epstein seemingly attempted to blackmail the tech billionaire using details of an alleged affair Gates had with a young Russian bridge player named Mila Antonova. It is claimed that Epstein wanted to use the information as leverage to force Gates to financially back a new charitable fund Epstein had set up.

But some now claim that while Epstein's sexual crimes have continued to make headlines more details of his criminal activity have emerged, blackmail may have been a central aspect of his criminal operations. Writer Whitney Webb's 2021 book "One Nation Under Blackmail: The Sordid Union Between Intelligence and Crime That Gave Rise To Jeffrey Epstein" argues, for example, that Epstein worked on behalf of both intelligence agencies and organized crime to dig up dirt on politicians and business people for financial and political ends.

Epstein's lawyer was behind the raid on Mar-a-Lago

Former president and reality TV star Donald Trump shared his shock in August 2022 when he announced on social media that the FBI had raided his Florida estate, Mar-A-Lago, and extracted a cache of documents that they announced were confidential and illegally removed from the White House at the end of his administration.

Such a raid required judicial approval, which was supplied by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, who signed a warrant allowing FBI agents to enter Mar-A-Lago and seize documents. Reinhart received an immediate backlash from Trump supporters for his involvement in sanctioning the raid and found himself at the center of a conspiracy theory, when social media users began sharing posts claiming that the judge in question was the former lawyer of the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, suggesting that the raid was in some way connected to a sex trafficking cover-up. However, as a USA Today fact check makes clear, Reinhart was never Epstein's lawyer, though he has admitted publicly to previously representing some of Epstein's employees while working as a defense attorney.

A tragic school shooting was a planned distraction

It is a shameful fact concerning online discourse that school shootings, which continue to occur at alarming rates across America (per CNN), are sometimes co-opted into the narratives put forward by conspiracy theorists. The most notorious instance of this involved the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, which left 20 children and six adults dead. Distressingly for the families of the victims, an online conspiracy theory soon emerged that claimed the atrocity was fake, and that those who had lost loved ones were "crisis actors." Alt-right commentator Alex Jones, who pushed the false theory through his social media platforms, was later sued by the parents of a number of the victims, to whom he was ordered to pay $1.5 billion in damages.

While the Sandy Hook conspiracy was disproven, a similar idea was put forth in January 2024, after several new caches of documents related to the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell were made public. The documents named numerous high-profile associates of the couple though the majority of the information contained within them was already public knowledge. Despite the documents not being the bombshells that some news outlets reported them to be, online conspiracists nevertheless claimed that a tragic school shooting in Iowa which saw two dead and six others injured was planned to distract from the fresh round of revelations regarding Epstein's sex trafficking ring. There is zero evidence that this is the case.