WINCHESTER — A con man who told The New York Times and two high-powered attorneys representing victims of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein that he had video of Epstein’s prominent friends having sex with young women first approached The Winchester Star with his bogus claims.

The man, who said his name was Patrick Kessler, was interviewed by The Star on Aug. 29. The meeting came 19 days after Epstein died from an apparent hanging in a New York City jail. Epstein was a wealthy financier who partied with President Donald Trump in the 1990s, flew former President Bill Clinton on his plane in 2002 and hosted Prince Andrew at one of his homes in recent years.

Epstein, a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 2008 in Florida to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution, was facing sex trafficking charges after being arrested again on July 6. Hundreds of photos of nude and partially nude girls and young women were reportedly found when police raided his Manhattan mansion.

Kessler, who later told The New York Times that the name was a pseudonym, told The Star he lived in Northern Virginia. He said he was more comfortable talking to a smaller newspaper like The Star and hadn’t contacted any other media.

Kessler said Epstein — who served just 13 months of an 18-month sentence in Florida in a controversial plea bargain in which his victims weren’t consulted — had “a lot of dirt” on his “powerful friends.” He said Epstein used his leverage to maintain a wealthy lifestyle after his conviction.

Kessler, who refused to be photographed by The Star, said he worked in information technology, including providing encrypted communications. Encryption involves converting data into code to avoid unauthorized access.

Kessler said he began working for Epstein as an independent contractor in August of 2007. He said the job was arranged by John McAfee, the former head of a global computer security software firm and the creator of the McAfee Antivirus. McAfee couldn’t be reached on Tuesday, but he told The New York Times on its television show “The Weekly,” which aired on Sunday, that he didn’t know Kessler.

Kessler said he never met Epstein, but he spoke to him occasionally by phone about computer issues and was paid monthly by bitcoin, a digital currency that can be converted to cash. He said the monthly payments worked out to about $36,000 annually and the last payment came on July 5, the day before Epstein was arrested.

Kessler said he had secretly copied video of Epstien’s friends having sex with young women. He portrayed himself as a whistle blower who planned to go to authorities within two weeks and wanted to go on record in case he was arrested.

“I believe that democracy is broken, I want to get all the information out there and people can decide for themselves,” Kessler said during an approximately one-hour, recorded interview in The Star’s conference room. “I want to get all the information I have and the truth about my story to someone in media before my story is dictated by a court.”

At one point in the interview, Kessler displayed images on his phone of men resembling Epstein and Prince Andrew having sex with young women. Kessler said he had no evidence that any of the women were underage. On Monday, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who worked for Epstein, told the BBC that she had sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17, an accusation the prince denies.

Kessler also said he was in possession of encrypted messages from Ghislane Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend, attempting to procure girls between 12 and 15 for sex. He claimed to have anonymously sent the information to the FBI.

Kessler said he also contacted attorneys for Epstein’s victims. The New York Times reported Kessler met on Sept. 9 with David Boies, who represents several victims. He also met with attorney Stan Pottinger. Both are prominent attorneys.

The New York Times story, published on Saturday, and Sunday’s episode of “The Weekly” detail how both attorneys believed Kessler and devised a plan in which the abusers would fund a charity for sex abuse victims through legal settlements. As part of the settlements, the video wouldn’t be released. Although Kessler told The Star “I’m not in it for the money,” Boies told The New York Times that Kessler would be compensated “generously” in the settlements.

The Times story also details a legal but ethically questionable plan in which the abusers would be represented by the attorneys after settling with them. In encrypted text messages Kessler provided to the Times, Pottinger outlines a “hot list” of men who would pay settlements, with the attorneys pocketing up to 40%. The attorneys also said they would share the video with The New York Times, but they would decide which men would be written about and when, which the Times refused to do.

In a Tuesday interview, David Enrich, a Times editor and one of several editors and reporters who wrote the story, said it was one of the “weirdest and most interesting stories” he has ever worked on in his 18-year career. While Kessler turned out to be a phony, Enrich said the Pottinger texts “gave us this really unique window into how high-powered lawyers sometimes operate.”

Pottinger didn’t return a call or email on Tuesday. Boies said he had no participation or knowledge of Pottinger’s texts. While both men are representing Epstein victims, Boies noted they work for separate firms. He said his clients have remained supportive of him since The New York Times story was published.

In The Star interview, Kessler promised to return in a week with evidence on thumb drives to back up his story, but he first needed to consult with his attorney.

“I have to make sure that I’m not digging myself a bigger grave,” he said. “If I’m gonna go down this path, it’s important for me to lay it all out there, everything, because I know what’s going to happen if I do get arrested. I’m going to get accused of a lot of things that aren’t exactly true.”

However, Washington, D.C.-based attorney Gary H. Blaise, who Kessler said represented him, said in an email hours after the interview at The Star that he’d never heard of Kessler. Although Kessler promised to meet again with The Star in a week, he never did, so Kessler was deemed not credible and the story was not pursued. A call and an email to a number and email address Kessler provided to The Star weren’t returned on Tuesday.

Enrich said The New York Times is still interested in learning who Kessler really is and what his true motivations were. “The more coverage this gets, especially in local media, the greater the chances are that we might get our answer,” he said.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(1) comment

coachmilburn

Is there video/security cameras at The Winchester Star new location?

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