The New York Times has come out with a deeply reported investigation on Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of the Limited, Bath and Body Works, and the CEO of L Brands, the company that owns Victoria’s Secret, Lane Bryant, and other brands. And among a host of incredibly eyebrow-raising details—that Wexner at one point signed over almost total control of his finances to Epstein, how some of Wexner’s wealth then quickly flowed to Epstein—we also learn that Epstein pretended he was a model scout for Victoria’s Secret in order to prey on young women, and that Wexner knew, but did seemingly nothing.
By the mid-1990s, L Brands executives had found out that Epstein “was trying to involve himself in the recruitment of lingerie models for the Victoria’s Secret catalog.” According to the New York Times, Wexner was then told of what his friend was doing, and “promised to take care of the issue.”
But if I were to hazard a guess, Wexner likely did nothing, as in 1997, Epstein allegedly assaulted a young model named Alicia Arden in a hotel room, having lured her there by dangling the opportunity to model for the Victoria’s Secret catalog:
In May 1997, Alicia Arden, a model in California, was introduced to [Epstein] who identified himself as a talent scout for Victoria’s Secret. He invited her to his Santa Monica hotel room to audition for the brand’s catalog. When she arrived, Ms. Arden said, the man grabbed her, tried to undress her and said he wanted to “manhandle” her. Ms. Arden, then 27, fled in tears.
“His weapons were his hands,” Arden told the New York Times. Arden filed a police report a week later, which is, as the New York Times noted, “one of the earliest known police records of an allegation of sexual misconduct” filed against Epstein.
Epstein’s attempt to portray himself as a model scout for Victoria’s Secret was not the only way he attempted to gain access to young women through his connections with Wexner. Around the same time, he allegedly assaulted Maria Farmer, a young graduate student who worked for him and for Wexner at Wexner’s home in Ohio:
In the summer of 1996, Maria Farmer was working on an art project for Mr. Epstein in Mr. Wexner’s Ohio mansion. While she was there, Mr. Epstein sexually assaulted her, according to an affidavit Ms. Farmer filed earlier this year in federal court in Manhattan. She said that she fled the room and called the police, but that Mr. Wexner’s security staff refused to let her leave for 12 hours.
Wexner, however, did not end his relationship with Epstein until much later, months after Epstein was charged in Florida in 2006 with the sexual abuse of young, teenage girls.