Alicia Arden, who in the 1990s was an aspiring Victoria’s Secret model, has come forward alleging sexual assault against Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who is currently being held in Metropolitan Corrections Center on sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy charges.
Arden met Epstein in 1997 in California, where she was living at the time so she could break into the modeling industry. Epstein identified himself as a model scout for Victoria’s Secret and invited Arden to his hotel room at Shutters, a Santa Monica hotel, for a personal tryout, according to a police report that was filed by Arden a week after the incident took place.
When she arrived, Epstein “groped her buttocks against her will” and “told her to undress….while saying, ‘Let me manhandle you for a second,’” according to the report. “His weapons were his hands,” Arden told the New York Times while recounting the incident.
After filing the police report, Arden told the Associated Press, she never heard anything about the case again. “I’m very distraught about what’s going on, now that I hear about these teenage girls,” she told the AP, adding that it “could have been stopped.” The Santa Monica Police Department has not yet responded to Rolling Stone’s request for comment regarding the outcome of the case.
According to the New York Times report, Arden came forward after hearing about Epstein’s arrest earlier this month and realizing that Epstein was not a modeling scout for Victoria’s Secret, as he claimed to be. He was, however, a close personal friend and money manager for Leslie Wexner, the CEO of L Brands, the company that owns Victoria’s Secret and other clothing brands, including the Limited.
In the mid-1990s, around the time that Arden claims she was assaulted by Epstein, two executives at L Brands discovered that Epstein had been approaching young women by purporting to be a Victoria’s Secret modeling scout, and told Wexner. While Wexner promised to speak with Epstein, the executives said, it was unclear what, if any, action he actually took against his friend. It wasn’t until 2006, after Epstein was charged with multiple counts of molestation and sexual abuse of a minor, that Wexner officially cut ties with him. Though Wexner declined to comment to the Times, an internal letter sent to L Brands employees states that he was “NEVER aware of the illegal activity charged in the indictment.”
In addition to Arden’s police report, one of the earliest on-the-record allegations against Epstein is from a woman named Maria Farmer, who alleges that in 1996, she and her then-15-year-old sister were sexually abused by Epstein and his former partner Ghislaine Maxwell. In a sworn affidavit filed last April, Farmer said she reported the abuse to the NYPD and the FBI that year, but they did not take action at the time. (FBI documents refer to Farmer being interviewed by the agency in 2006 or 2007, around the time that Epstein faced Florida sexual abuse charges.) Farmer also said in the affidavit that she frequently saw “school-aged” girls entering his New York home, and was told they were auditioning for modeling work.
Epstein was arrested earlier this month at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport. Prosecutors allege that between 2002 and 2005, Epstein sexually abused “dozens” of girls as young as 14 at his homes in Palm Beach and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. A search by federal authorities also yielded “hundr if not thousands” of what appeared to be pornographic images of young girls on CD-ROMs, which were kept in a locked safe in his Manhattan home.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to a single charge of solicitation of prostitution of a minor. The charge was the result of a plea deal orchestrated by then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, marking a significant reduction from the 2006 sexual abuse charges against Epstein. (Acosta has since resigned from his position as Labor Secretary following published reports of the details of the plea deal.) As part of the conditions of the plea deal, Epstein was required to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to 13 months in prison, much of which he served on work order release from the comfort of his Palm Beach office.
In the intervening years, Epstein has been dogged by a number of sexual abuse lawsuits alleging that he recruited young women and hired them to work as masseuses, only to force them to undress and engage in sex acts with him at his homes. A 2018 Miami Herald investigation identified more than 80 women who had leveled such allegations against Epstein.
Epstein, who has not responded to multiple Rolling Stone requests for comment, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He is currently awaiting trial at Metropolitan Corrections Center and has been denied bail.