Loophole dropped Epstein from sex offender list in New Mexico, where he owned $17 million ranch

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Jeffrey Epstein’s Zorro Ranch in Stanley, N.M. is shown Monday, July 8, 2019. Epstein is entangled in two legal fights that span the East Coast, challenging his underage sexual abuse victims in a Florida court hours after he was indicted on sex trafficking charges in a separate case in New York. (KRQE via AP)

The Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse investigation is intensifying in New Mexico, where authorities once took the convicted pedophile off the state’s sex offender registry. Exclusive photos show Epstein’s ranch, valued at $17 million, where accusations against him date back more than 20 years.

The sprawling New Mexico home known as “Zorro Ranch” sits high on a hill. It’s gated entrance is shut and monitored by a security camera. The closest town is at least 20 miles away. Locals told CBS News that Epstein occasionally visited a few restaurants, but kept a low profile.

Sex abuse allegations against Epstein in New Mexico date back to the mid ’90s. An affidavit filed in April alleges Epstein and his supposed ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell told a 15-year-old girl to “take off all of her clothes” and then “touched her inappropriately” on a massage table at the ranch in 1996. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday morning, an accuser claims Epstein coerced her to engage in sex acts there between 2007 and 2010. Maxwell has not been charged with a crime, and has denied any wrongdoing in the past.

After his 2008 Florida conviction on child prostitution charges, Epstein was forced to register as a sex offender. But in New Mexico, he did not suffer the same consequences as he did in other states where he owned homes and faced accusations. 
Soon after Epstein registered as a sex offender in New Mexico, state officials informed him that he wasn’t required to do so, despite having to register in Florida and New York.
 
Official documents from 2010 show that just two days after Epstein registered in New Mexico, a legal loophole allowed him to be taken off the list. The reason? The victim in his Florida case was not younger than 16 — a condition for registry in New Mexico. But amid new lawsuits, criminal defense attorney Vinoo Varghese says a search of Epstein’s ranch is imminent. 
“Anything that man has touched is going to be examined and scrutinized by the federal government,” Varghese said.

CBS News has obtained e-mails from 2013 that reveal that even after Epstein was taken off New Mexico’s sex offender registry, he personally informed law enforcement of his trips to Zorro Ranch.

In recent weeks, New Mexico’s attorney general has said he’ll push for legislation that would require anyone with a sex trafficking conviction to register as a sex offender in the state.

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