Jeffrey Epstein has been discovered dead in jail where he had been held pending trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
The 66-year-old billionaire investor had been accused of sex trafficking girls as young as 14 for himself and a number of his high-profile mates — including elite politicians, royalty and celebrities.
He was being held without bail in a Lower Manhattan jail cell after being arrested on 6 July.
He pleaded not guilty and faced up to 45 years in rison, news.com.au reports.
He was busted July 6 over the alleged sexual abuse of dozens of young girls in his Upper East Side townhouse and his waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.
In 2008, he pleaded guilty to a charge of solicitation of prostitution involving a 14-year-old girl, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison — of which he served 13.
However, as he awaited trial for sex trafficking charges, he committed suicide in his jail cell.
A trolley carrying a man who looked like Epstein was wheeled out of the Manhattan Correctional Center around 7:30am local time, according to the New York Post.
The ambulance went to New York Downtown Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Epstein had previously been moved to a suicide-watch unit after being found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck on July 23, a week after his bail request had been rejected.
The news of his death has been met with disbelief on social media — where many are asking how a high-profile inmate who had apparently attempted to kill himself last month could take his life in what is supposed to be a highly secure federal facility.
Some of his accusers and their lawyers are angry that the financier's suicide will prevent him from facing them in court.
Jennifer Araoz — who claims she was raped by Epstein when she was 15 — released a statement overnight saying she and other accusers will be scarred for the rest of their lives, while he won't confront the consequences of the "trauma he caused so many people."
Brad Edwards, a lawyer for nearly two dozen other accusers, said Epstein's suicide was a "selfish act" that was "not the ending anyone was looking for".
WHO WAS JEFFREY EPSTEIN?
Before his legal troubles, Epstein led a life of extraordinary luxury that drew powerful people into his orbit.
He socialised with princes and presidents and lived on a 100-acre private island in the Caribbean and one of the biggest mansions in New York.
A college dropout, he became a sought-after benefactor of professors and scientists, donating millions of dollars in donations to Harvard University and other causes. Still, it was never entirely clear how the middle-class Brooklyn maths whiz became a Wall Street master of high finance.
The somewhat reclusive Epstein splashed into the news in 2002 after a New York tabloid reported he had lent his Boeing 727 to ferry former President Bill Clinton and other notables on an AIDS relief mission to Africa.
Magazine profiles followed and established Epstein's reputation as a stealthy yet exorbitantly successful money man with a high-profile social circle.
Vanity Fair in 2003 described him entertaining real estate tycoons, business executives and the scions of some of America's wealthiest families at his New York mansion - while also spending 75 minutes a day practicing yoga with a personal instructor and eschewing email, alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
His friends over the years have included Donald Trump, Britain's Prince Andrew and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
But Epstein also enjoyed surrounding himself with women much younger than he, including Russian models who attended his cocktail parties and beautiful women he flew aboard his plane, according to the Vanity Fair profile.
His death comes a day after unsealed documents in New York revealed the extent of his abuse of young women at his home in Palm Beach, New York and the Virgin Islands.
He had been held since he was arrested on charges relating to alleged sexual misconduct from at least 2002 to 2005.
The documents revealed Epstein repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself when confronted with allegations that he orchestrated a sex trafficking ring that delivered girls to him and his high-profile acquaintances.
Epstein's responses emerged in a partial transcript of a September 2016 deposition stemming from a defamation lawsuit.
The transcript was included in hundreds of pages of documents placed in a public file by a federal appeals court in New York.
The deposition happened almost three years before Epstein's July 6 arrest on sex trafficking charges in a case that has brought down a Cabinet secretary and launched fresh investigations into how authorities dealt with Epstein over the years.
The 66-year-old pleaded not guilty.
Epstein was asked in the videotaped deposition whether it was standard operating procedure for his former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, to bring underage girls to him to sexually abuse.
Epstein replied "Fifth," as he did to numerous other questions, citing the Constitution's Fifth Amendment that protects people against incriminating themselves.
He also was asked whether Maxwell was "one of the main women" he used to procure underage girls for sexual activities.
"Fifth," he replied.
And he was asked whether Maxwell met one of the females she recruited for massages at the Mar-a-Lago resort owned by President Donald Trump in Palm Beach. "Fifth," he replied.
Asked if he was a member of Mar-a-Lago in 2000, he replied once again, "Fifth," according to the transcript.
After Epstein's arrest, Trump acknowledged that he knew Epstein but said he "had a falling out with him a long time ago".
Over 2000 pages of documents made public by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals pertained to a since-settled lawsuit against Maxwell filed by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's accusers.
Giuffre filed the complaint in 2015, saying Maxwell subjected her to "public ridicule, contempt and disgrace" by calling her a liar in published statements "with the malicious intent of discrediting and further damaging Giuffre worldwide". The lawsuit sought unspecified damages.
The court records contain graphic allegations against Epstein, who is accused in Manhattan federal court of trafficking young girls internationally to have sex with prominent American politicians, business executives and world leaders. Prosecutors have not accused Maxwell of any wrongdoing. They say they continue to investigate.
In her own deposition, Maxwell called the claims another one of Giuffre's "many fictitious lies and stories to make this a salacious event to get interest and press. It's absolute rubbish." She also claimed that Giuffre was 17 when she met her.
Neither Maxwell's lawyer nor a public-relations firm she hired responded Friday to emails from The Associated Press.
Epstein's lawyers say the federal charges that accuse Epstein of recruiting and abusing dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s should never have been brought.
They say Epstein is protected by an agreement he reached with federal prosecutors in Florida a dozen years ago. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last month after coming under fire for overseeing that deal when he was US lawyer in Miami.
Lawyer Martin Weinberg has said Epstein has not committed crimes since pleading guilty to charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida in 2008.
At the time of Epstein's arrest, prosecutors said they found a trove of pictures of nude and semi-nude young women and girls at his $US77 million Manhattan mansion. They also say additional victims have come forward since the arrest.
-- With wires
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
- 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202