The Ohio State University announced Tuesday that it launched a review of millions of dollars worth of donations from billionaire Jeff Epstein and his associated organizations.
Epstein, 66, was arrested July 6 on charges that he trafficked and abused dozens of underage girls in Florida and New York in the early 2000s. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to 45 years in prison.
Ohio State says Epstein donated $1,000 to the Wexner Center for the Arts Membership Fund in 1990. Epstein's COUQ Foundation also anonymously donated $2.5 milllion to the university in May 2007, at which time L Brands founder Les Wexner was on the Ohio State Board of Trustees.
Combined with the Epstein donation, a $2.5 million gift from the Leslie H. Wexner Charitable Fund in 2007 led to the naming of the Les Wexner Football Complex, according to the university. Epstein then served as a trustee of the Wexner Foundation.
"Epstein is a convicted sex offender whose crimes are reprehensible, and his association with these gifts to the university is concerning," the press release states. "Ohio State is conducting a complete review of the giving history to the university by Epstein and known associated entities and will take additional action as appropriate."
In an email to employees this week, obtained by WOSU, Wexner denied any knowledge of accusations against Epstein. Wexner called the behavior "egregious" and "sickening."
"As you can imagine, this past week I have searched my soul… reflected… and regretted that my path ever crossed his," Wexner wrote.
Epstein was a longtime financial adviser for Wexner, but Wexner says he severed ties 12 years ago.
"When Mr. Epstein was my personal money manager, he was involved in many aspects of my financial life," Wexner said in the email. "But let me assure you that I was NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment.”
According to the New York Times, both Wexner and Epstein invested in a New York mansion in 1989. It was later transferred to Epstein for $20 million. Filings from the late 1990s in Ohio show both Wexner and Epstein listed as presidents of the New Albany Company.
More than a decade ago, Epstein signed a non-prosecution deal in Florida pleading guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He subsequently served a 13-month jail sentence and registered as a sex offender.
Around the same time, in 2008, the Associated Press reports Epstein handed $46 million to a foundation linked to Wexner.
Read Wexner's full letter to employees below:
I would never have guessed that a person I employed more than a decade ago could have caused such pain to so many people. My heart goes out to each and every person who has been hurt. I severed all ties with Mr. Epstein nearly 12 years ago. I would not have continued to work with any individual capable of such egregious, sickening behavior as has been reported about him. As you can imagine, this past week I have searched my soul ... reflected ... and regretted that my path ever crossed his.
When Mr. Epstein was my personal money manager, he was involved in many aspects of my financial life. But let me assure you that I was NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment.
We all know that what is being reported about Mr. Epstein will receive significant news coverage. I fully expect that this will remain in the news for some time to come. And we don't know what twists and turns these events will take ... but I can assure you that I will continue to act in the company's best interest as this unfolds, and I ask you to do the same. I am proud that our company has long-held core values - those values have never been more important than today, and I ask that we all wave them higher now than ever before.