The federal detention center where millionaire financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was being held has had some notable lapses in security over the years.
Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, a variable-security lockup dubbed “Guantanamo of New York,” has housed a number of high-security inmates but has also suffered some serious security problems.
In 2016, Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab was arrested for overseeing a massive money laundering scheme and evading sanctions with Iran. Zarrab, 35, entered a plea agreement and became a government witness. In federal court, Zarrab testified that he was attacked by another prisoner wielding a knife who said he was told to kill Zarrab for cooperating with prosecutors.
Former CIA employee Joshua Schulte, 30, who is accused of leaking highly classified information to Wikileaks was being held at MCC when it was discovered that he managed to have multiple cell phones in his cell, including one that was heavily encrypted. He reportedly maintained multiple emails and had communicated with third parties outside the jail.
In January, former MCC security guard Victor Casado was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to taking more than $25,000 in bribes for smuggling contraband like cell phones to Zarrab.
Another correctional officer at MCC, Dario Quirumbay, was arrested last year for smuggling contraband into the jail in exchange for bribes.
The jail, run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is reportedly so understaffed that BOP is offering $10,000 bonuses to correctional officers who agree to transfer there from other prisons. BOP is also offering a “recruitment incentive” that equates to 10% of correctional officers’ first-year salaries.
The lack of staffing has resulted in excessive overtime shifts for guards, with some working up to 16 hours a day. A guard in Epstein’s unit had reportedly worked four overtime days in a row and was on his fifth when the body was discovered.
Epstein, who was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, was found dead of an apparent suicide early Saturday morning. He was in the Special Housing Unit of the jail after being moved from suicide watch days before. The financier had been placed on the watch after he was found in July nearly unconscious on his cell floor with marks on his neck.
Epstein reportedly hanged himself and an autopsy has been performed but the results of that are still pending. Attorney General William Barr announced Saturday that the Justice Department would be investigating the circumstances of Epstein’s death.