Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier who the FBI believes molested around 40 underaged girls, was assisted by a prominent modeling agent and scout. Here's what we know about Jean Luc Brunel.
Jeffrey Epstein, you will no doubt recall, is the man who thought ferrying Bill Clinton on his private jet, lawyering up with superstar Alan Dershowitz, and making frequent $100,000 donations to the Palm Beach Police Department would insulate him from prosecution for his various depravities.
Which included, for the record: buying a 14-year-old Yugloslavian named Natalia Marcinkova from her parents in order to keep Marcinkova as his "sex slave"; paying a retinue of women to trawl Palm Beach for teenagers economically desperate enough to agree to give Epstein "massages" that often led to sexual contact; receiving two 12-year-old French girls as a "birthday present"; and befriending Michael Wolff.
But as Conchita Sarnoff wrote at The Daily Beast:
Perhaps most disturbing, in terms of possible sex trafficking, was Epstein's relationship with Jean Luc Brunel, owner of the MC2 modeling agency. According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, an alleged victim said that Epstein, [assistant and girlfriend Ghislaine] Maxwell, Brunel, [house manager Alfredo] Rodriguez, and Marcinkova 'deliberately engaged in a pattern of racketeering that involved luring minor children through MC2, mostly girls under the age of 17, to engage in sexual play for money.'
The FBI investigated Epstein, and identified around 40 underaged victims. Sarnoff reports that the FBI is also investigating MC2 and Brunel for possibly engaging in child sex trafficking. Since pleading guilty to reduced charges of soliciting sex with a minor and serving 13 months of part-time jail, Epstein has become the focus of numerous civil lawsuits from his victims. He has so far settled a dozen.
These same civil complaints allege that young girls from South America, Europe, and the former Soviet republics, few of whom spoke English, were recruited for Esptein's sexual pleasure. According to a former bookkeeper, a number of the girls worked for MC2, the modeling agency owned by Jean Luc Brunel, a longtime acquaintance and frequent guest of Epstein's.
Brunel, along with numerous young models, was a frequent passenger on Epstein's private jet, according to flight manifests. The agency owner also allegedly received $1 million from Epstein in 2005, when he founded MC2 with his partner, Jeffrey Fuller; although Fuller and Brunel denied any such payment from the billionaire pervert in 2007, when rumors started swirling, Sarnoff got confirmation from a former bookkeeper at the agency. Whether the money was a secret investment in MC2, or a payment for Brunel's services as a procurer, is unknown. Brunel also visited Epstein in jail.
So who is Jean Luc Brunel? Although he did not respond to our interview request, we spoke to a number of people who have worked with his agency. While MC2 isn't considered a major industry player, it isn't exactly bottom-shelf, either: MC2 in New York most recently launched the career of Latvian editorial star Ginta Lapina (Brunel "discovered" Lapina via an MC2 scouting competition for young teens) and currently represents Vogue China covergirl Liu Dan. Worldwide, MC2 represents such stars as Sessilee Lopez in Miami, and top models Candace Swanepoel, Marina Lynchuk, Natalia Chabanenko, and Elisa Sednaoui in Tel Aviv.
Brunel isn't involved with the business on a day-to-day basis, although he owns an 85% stake in MC2. Instead, "Right now he does scouting for [the] agency and takes care of the international relations with other agencies," reports one source. Scouts scour the world for un-agented teenaged girls who could make it as models; they work largely unsupervised and are generally paid a headhunting fee for every girl an agency signs. Even when affiliated with an agency, as Brunel obviously is with MC2, scouts operate mostly independently and with little oversight — even relative to the almost totally unregulated modeling industry itself. "He travels a lot," says another person who has worked with Brunel. (The company blog refers to Brunel as a "scouting tsunami," and MC2 is fairly well-known for the strength of its international scouting.)
Models we spoke to report mostly positive experiences with Brunel — one praised his sense of humor and said he is "lovely to all of his models," and another described him as highly intelligent and cultured, adding, "he knows a lot about the opera and he paints" — although it should be noted that none of the models whom we spoke to had been told of either his connections with Epstein, or his past.
And what a past it is. These accounts from Michael Gross' 1995 book Model describe Brunel's activities in Paris from the late 1970s onwards, when he worked for, and eventually owned, the modeling agency Karins, now known as Karin Paris:
"Jean-Luc is considered a danger," says Jérôme Bonnouvrier. "Owning Karins was a dream for a playboy. His problem is that he knows exactly what girls in trouble are looking for. He's always been on the edge of the system. John Casablancas gets with girls the healthy way. Girls would be with him if he was the butcher. They're with Jean-Luc because he's the boss. Jean-Luc likes drugs and silent rape. It excites him."
"I really despise Jean-Luc as a human being for the way he's cheapened the business," says John Casablancas. "There is no justice. This is a guy who should be behind bars. There was a little group, Jean-Luc, Patrick Gilles, and Varsano...They were very well-known in Paris for roaming the clubs. They would invite girls and put drugs in their drinks. Everybody knew they were creeps."
It should be noted that aside from being a professional rival, Casablancas, the founder of the agency Elite, was eventually drubbed out of the industry for his own modelizing. How pervy do you have to be for John Casablancas to call you a perv?
Pervy enough to drug and rape numerous teenagers, according to 60 Minutes and Diane Sawyer, who investigated Brunel in 1988. The program interviewed nearly two dozen models who said they had been sexually assaulted by Brunel and/or by his fellow agent, Claude Haddad. Even at that time, Brunel had a reputation as a man one could go to to procure a "date" with a young model. CBS spoke to five models who said that Brunel and/or his friends had drugged and raped them. Said producer Craig Pyes, "Hundreds of girls were not only harassed, but molested."
When Gross interviewed Brunel, this is what he had to say for himself:
"You get laid tonight with a model, is that a crime? I don't understand why people go into your personal life, what you do yourself, and to yourself, and they don't look at things that are really important."
Since then, Brunel has been involved with a succession of agencies in New York and Paris. Although the 60 Minutes scandal eventually led Eileen Ford to stop working with him, he continued his involvement with Karins. In 1988, when powerhouse agency Next opened its doors, Brunel took an ownership stake. He also "discovered" Christy Turlington when she was 14. MC2 is only his latest venture. Because no criminal charges were ever filed by any of his accusers, and because the industry has a short memory — most models working today weren't even born when Sawyer and Pyes started looking into Brunel's activities — Brunel has been free to continue as he pleases. A French citizen, he even avoided testifying in his friend Epstein's trial.
And so Brunel is still criss-crossing the globe, trawling for 5'10" 13-year-olds from Eastern Europe and (the whiter parts of) South America. And apparently taking the occasional ride with them on Epstein's private jet. Is there any better argument for the regulation of the modeling industry?
Image via Models