When Virginia Roberts was 16 years old, like many teenagers she went about securing her first job — locker room attendant at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida — but that is where the similarities between Roberts’ childhood and that of most teens end.
By the time she began working at Mar-a-Lago, Roberts had already fallen into drug use and skipping school after being sexually molested at the age of 12, was in and out of foster homes at 13, and by the age of 14 was living on the street.
Then, according to an exhaustive report by the Miami Herald, Roberts fell victim to sex trafficking.
In Miami, the runaway became a captive of a 65-year-old sex trafficker, Ron Eppinger. For months, she says, she was sexually abused, kept in an apartment and pimped out to pedophiles. After his indictment in 2000 on trafficking charges, Roberts returned to West Palm Beach and tried to heal.
That summer, when Roberts was 16, she said her father helped her get a job as a locker room attendant at the spa at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, records show. Her father worked at the resort as a maintenance man.
While working at the club, Roberts became acquainted with Ghislaine Maxwell, a friend of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell.
Her newfound “friend” offered Roberts the opportunity to begin working for Epstein as a massage therapist.
In a sworn court affidavit and in a recent interview with the Herald, Roberts described how Epstein and Maxwell began grooming her — not just to perform massages, but to sexually pleasure them and others.
“It started with one and it trickled into two and so on,’’ Roberts told the Herald. “And before you know it, I’m being lent out to politicians and academics and royalty.’’
Roberts was also tasked with finding more girls for Epstein, frequenting popular teen hangouts like shopping malls to draw young girls to whichever of Epstein’s several homes he was in at the time.
She began to travel with Epstein and Maxwell to Epstein’s other homes, in New York, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — and her trips are documented in flight logs that frequently list her name or her initials as a passenger, court records show.
“His appetite was insatiable. He wanted new girls, fresh, young faces every single day — that was just the sickness that he had,’’ Roberts said.
Roberts said it wasn’t just Epstein who was seeking girls: some of them were gifted to Epstein’s friends.
“Epstein and Maxwell also got girls for Epstein’s friends and acquaintances. Epstein specifically told me that the reason for him doing this was so that they would ‘owe him,’ they would ‘be in his pocket,’ and he would ‘have something on them,’ ” Roberts said in a court affidavit. “I understood him to mean that when someone was in his pocket, they owed him favors.’’
Epstein also had access to young girls via his relationship to a New York City modeling agency, Roberts said.
Epstein, who was close to Les Wexner, the owner of Victoria’s Secret, often talked about his connections to people in the modeling, fashion and acting industries, Roberts told the Herald.
“He would tell the girls, ‘Hey, I will give you a modeling contract if you go have sex with this man,’ ’’ she said.
Roberts’ story about the modeling agency is supported, to a degree, by the sworn statement of a Miami woman named Maritza Vasquez, who was later interviewed in New York by an FBI agent from Miami. Vasquez worked as a bookkeeper for Mc2, owned by Epstein associate Jean-Luc Brunel. He employed scouts in South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union to find him models to bring to the United States, Vasquez said in a 2010 sworn court deposition obtained by the Herald.
Vasquez, who said she handled the payroll and finances for agency from 2003 to 2006, denied having any direct knowledge of what transpired at Epstein’s parties but admitted to being aware that models sometimes took jobs that involved sex.
Vasquez testified it wasn’t unusual for the agency to send girls to an assignment with a wealthy client for $100,000 or more, but the girl wouldn’t be paid the full amount — or anything at all — if she refused to be “molested.’’
Vasquez considered herself a mother figure and often coached the youngest girls to stick to the 9-to-5 modeling assignments because she didn’t think it was appropriate for them to be having sex.
She said she met Epstein only once, but she often helped arrange for girls — many of them underage — to be sent to his homes in New York, Palm Beach and his island in the Caribbean for parties. She heard salacious rumors about Epstein’s parties, but testified she had no firsthand knowledge about whether they involved sex.
By the time Roberts was 19, it became apparent that she was too old for Epstein’s taste, she said.
She convinced him to pay for her to get training to become a real professional masseuse so that she could move on.
In an interview, she explained that Epstein arranged for her to take a class in Thailand, but it came with a hitch: She said she was instructed to pick up a Thai girl he had arranged to come to the States.
Roberts, who showed the Herald the written instructions for the rendezvous, never picked up the girl because Roberts met a man on the trip who would become her husband. The couple married and moved to Australia, where they currently live.
The same year the FBI launched its investigation into Epstein — 2007 — Roberts said she was contacted by Epstein and Maxwell, who inquired if she had been talking to authorities about them.
She told them she had spoken to no one.
Shortly afterward, Roberts said, she was contacted by someone who claimed to be with the FBI. But she was afraid to tell that person details, fearing it was really an Epstein associate posing as an FBI agent.
That agent, identified in court papers as Timothy Slater, confirmed that he and the other agent on the case, Nesbitt Kuyrkendall, called Roberts in January or February 2007. In a sworn statement, Slater said he informed Roberts that they suspected she was a victim of Epstein’s.
The agent said Roberts answered basic questions, but became uncomfortable and “asked that I not bother her again.’’
Though she admitted she was suspicious of the phone call, Roberts said she would have spoken with the agents had they talked to her in person.
“I was still scared to death,’’ Roberts said. “Jeffrey used to tell me that he owned the entire Palm Beach Police Department. I just didn’t want my family harmed.’’
She nevertheless was listed by federal prosecutors as one of Epstein’s Palm Beach victims.