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Eleven years after letting Jeffrey Epstein off lightly with a once-secret plea deal, the U.S. government is taking another run at putting the wealthy sex offender behind bars with new sex-trafficking charges that law enforcement officials say involve allegations dating to the early 2000s.

Epstein, arrested over the weekend, is expected to make his first court appearance on the new charges Monday in New York City. Prosecutors are likely to argue that he is a flight risk and should remain in jail instead of being released on bail pending trial.

One law enforcement official told The Associated Press the case deals with allegations that Epstein, a 66-year-old hedge fund manager who once hobnobbed with some of the world's most powerful people, paid underage girls for massages and molested them at his homes in Florida and New York.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the pending case. Court documents related to the case have been kept under seal, and no official announcement of Epstein's arrest has been made.

Epstein's lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Epstein, whose friends have included President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton and Great Britain's Prince Andrew, was arrested Saturday at an airport near New York City after his private jet touched down from France.

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A task force of federal agents and New York City police officers met the plane at Teterboro Airport and took Epstein into custody, law enforcement officials said. He is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal jail near the Manhattan courthouse where he is due to appear on Monday.

Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein said there's almost no chance Epstein will be allowed to go home after the hearing. Under federal court rules, prosecutors can keep a defendant locked up for three extra days while preparing for a bail hearing without needing a reason. If that happens in Epstein's case, it would mean a bail hearing on Thursday.

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"The government is clearly seeking to have him detained," Weinstein said.

Epstein's arrest, first reported by The Daily Beast, came amid increased scrutiny of the 2008 non-prosecution deal that allowed Epstein to plead guilty to lesser state charges while maintaining a jet-set lifestyle, which includes homes in Paris and the U.S. Virgin Islands and a pricy Bentley.

Under the deal, overseen by former Miami U.S. Attorney and current Trump labor secretary Alexander Acosta, Epstein avoided a possible life sentence and served 13 months in jail after pleading guilty to Florida charges of soliciting and procuring a person under age 18 for prostitution. It also required he reach financial settlements with dozens of his victims and register as a sex offender.

Acosta has defended the plea deal as appropriate under the circumstances, though the White House said in February that it was "looking into" his handling of the deal.

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Amanda St. Amand • 314-340-8201

@mandystlpd on Twitter

astamand@post-dispatch.com

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