Criminal charges against Jeffrey Epstein are set to be thrown out after the disgraced financier’s shock suicide behind bars earlier this month, but far from closing up shop, investigators around the world are now changing the focus of the child sex trafficking probe. minors to focus on Epstein’s friends and enablers — including a 72-year-old French modeling agent and scout.
Jean-Luc Brunel – whose whereabouts are unknown – has long denied involvement in any wrongdoing stemming from his relationship with Epstein. But Brunel’s denials have been met with some skepticism, as Epstein’s accusers have previously alleged Brunel’s “scouting” involved procuring underage role models for Epstein to abuse.
“Jean-Luc-Brunel’s alleged predatory behavior has long been a source of concern in the fashion industry, but the problem isn’t just one bad actor,” said Sara Ziff, executive director of the advocacy group The Model Alliance, which lobbies for fair treatment, equal opportunity and sustainable practices in all facets of fashion, Fox News said. “The issues of model sexual abuse and sex trafficking under the guise of modeling are well known in the fashion industry.”
While Brunel may be able to avoid the reach of US law enforcement, the Paris prosecutor’s office is reportedly cooperating with its US counterparts amid calls for a separate review of Brunel’s questionable history in the world of the fashion. It is not yet known whether Brunel will be subject to an official investigation in his native country.
“The United States only has jurisdiction over crimes that have a clear connection to the United States. If charges are brought against Brunel, he may avoid extradition if the alleged crimes are not criminal where he resides,” said California-based criminal defense attorney Troy Slaten. “A good example of this is Roman Polanski who avoided extradition because France did not consider the conduct criminal.”
AFTER EPSTEIN’S DEATH, SERIOUS FAILURES IN THE NATIONAL SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY ARE CONCERNED
Epstein owned a luxurious apartment on Avenue Foch in Paris, as did Brunel. After a Paris-New York flight, Epstein had just gotten off his private plane when the FBI apprehended him on July 6 and accused him of operating a sex trafficking ring involving minors.
After building a decades-long reputation as a playboy with a penchant for the wheel and trading in the Parisian fashion world from the Karin Models agency in 1976, Brunel went on to work with the maven of l modeling agency Eileen Ford in the 1980s. Although several young women in a 1988 CBS News “60 Minutes” segment accused Brunel of sexually assaulting young models – prompting Ford to sever ties – authorities n took no further action.
Brunel then bought the Karin Models agency from its original owner and set about creating a worldwide network of affiliated agencies and launching big names – he boasted – from Sharon Stone to Monica Bellucci to Angie Everhart. He then helped launch global modeling powerhouse Next Model Management and remained a partner until 1995 when he established Karin Models in New York and Miami.
A book published by Michael Gross that year called ‘Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women’ also shed light on Brunel’s alleged abuse, with another officer calling him a ‘danger’ – but to no avail.
Sometime soon after, the French model man met the American money man.
In 2005, Brunel’s Karin Models agency was rebranded as MC2 Model Management, marketing itself as a “boutique agency” with an alleged $1 million investment from Epstein. Around the same time, the FBI opened an investigation into Epstein’s predatory behavior.
According to court documents from 2011 based on testimony from accusers, Brunel was one of Epstein’s “closest friends” and he left disturbing voicemails for the divorced financier. In a voicemail, he reportedly said he had a “non-blonde Russian teacher”, adding that she was “2 x 8” and that Epstein might have her first. The wording then raised the question, in the trial, if the girl allegedly bought was only 8 or 16 years old, or if there were two 8-year-old children.
Court documents also alleged that Brunel sometimes used Epstein’s condos in Manhattan to “house young models”.
“Epstein and Brunel brought in underage girls from all over the world, promising them modeling contracts,” the lawsuit claimed. “Epstein and Brunel would then get these girls visas, they would charge rent for the underage girls, presumably to live as underage prostitutes in the condos.”
Flight logs showed Brunel traveled on Epstein’s private jets at least 25 times between 1998 and 2005. Visitor logs showed the model manager also visited his friend some 67 times while Epstein was serving a brief sentence in a Florida County jail as part of a controversial 2008 plea deal on charges of soliciting a minor.
In a deposition nine years ago, Epstein’s butler in Palm Beach claimed Brunel stayed at his home three times during Epstein’s seven months under house arrest.
Meanwhile, Brunel’s business continued to prosper. In 2012, MC2 bragged that Brunel would essentially step away from the day-to-day dealings of running a business to instead focus on being a “consultant and scout” for the business.
Her relationship with Epstein broke down a few years later.
In January 2015, Brunel and MC2 filed a lawsuit for damages which he said stemmed from “the notoriety and bad publicity generated by the criminal charges against Epstein relating to allegations of unlawful sexual contact with a minor”. Brunel claimed the “false stories” linking him to Epstein had caused a “huge loss of business”.
In the now disturbing ‘Black Book’ of Epstein’s esteemed personal contacts, as published by Gawker shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Brunel was tagged as chairman of Karin Models, indicating that the two had known each other for a long time – and raising red flags about how and why the model scout was so close to the convicted sex offender.
It was unclear whether Brunel and Epstein maintained contact after the 2015 lawsuit, which was thrown out after Epstein was allegedly ill-served while on a private island in the US Virgin Islands.
Brunel’s agency also came under fire in a 2016 class action lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court, in which nine models accused MC2 – along with other big companies – of exploiting their naivety and limited understanding of the world. largely unregulated industry. Miami-based model Marcelle Almonte claimed that in 2005 MC2 offered her a place in a “model apartment” for $1,850 – which turned out to be stuffed with eight other girls, some relegated to sleeping by Earth.
As each of the aspiring prospects would have paid the same rent bill, MC2 was accused of pocketing $16,650: a far cry from the $2,900 value of other two-bedroom apartments in the same building.
MC2 continued to operate as a mid-sized agency based in Manhattan, with offices in Miami and Tel Aviv.
Neither representatives for MC2 nor a lawyer for Brunel responded to requests for comment.
‘ORGY ISLAND’ AT PLANES, EPSTEIN’S ASSETS ARE TO SEIZE
With the renewed spotlight on Epstein, any links between his relationships with big brands have proven problematic.
For one thing, famed lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret has been thrust into the not-so-angelic spotlight since Epstein’s arrest last month. The CEO of the lingerie giant’s parent company, L Brands, has claimed he cut ties with Epstein completely around 12 years ago and the fund manager embezzled his own funds at the time – but CEO and founder Les Wexner reportedly did not report the alleged theft to law enforcement.
Additionally, three of the models on the MC2 list – Bloomberg noted – landed a coveted spot in Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show in 2015 and returned to auditions in 2017 and 2018. L Brands has in recent weeks hired a firm of outside lawyers to examine the relationship between its founder and Epstein.
Earlier this month, more than a hundred models and industry leaders endorsed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas expressing concern “for the safety and well-being of models and young women aspiring to model for Victoria’s Secret,” pointing out the Wexner-Epstein “headline” and urging the conglomerate to adopt the legally binding RESPECT program — developed by Ziff’s Model Alliance — to protect against harassment and abuse sexual.
The letter was signed not only by former Victoria’s Secret angel Doutzen Kroes, but also by models Christy Turlington and Milla Jovovich – whom Careers Brunel has always claimed he launched in large part.
Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s have also been listed as Brunel clients, having hired his agency’s talent at different capacities in recent years.
Bloomberg reported that in 2014, a Nordstrom executive even gave Brunel “full and unqualified support” in a letter of support for his application for the 0-1 visa, a visa granted by the US State Department to “individuals who possess extraordinary abilities or recognition of achievement”.
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As for Ziff, the ongoing Epstein fallout should serve as a wake-up call.
“How many more casualties do we need to have before the fashion industry is ready to offer basic security and fair treatment at work to the talents – mostly young women and girls – who help market their clothes Change is entirely possible and within reach,” she added. “The fashion industry can and must do better.