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Two guards suspended, warden reassigned after Jeffrey Epstein death

The warden at the federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein took his own life over the weekend was removed today and two guards who were supposed to be watching the financier were placed on leave while federal authorities investigate the death.

The move by the Justice Department came amid mounting evidence that the chronically understaffed Metropolitan Correctional Centre may have bungled its responsibility to keep the 66-year-old Epstein from harming himself while he awaited trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

FILE - In this July 30, 2008 file photo, Jeffrey Epstein, center, is shown in custody in West Palm Beach, Fla. The wealthy financier and convicted sex offender has been arrested in New York on sex trafficking charges. Two law enforcement officials said Epstein was taken into federal custody Saturday, July 6, 2019, on charges involving sex-trafficking allegations that date to the 2000s. (Uma Sanghvi/Palm Beach Post via AP, File)
Jeffrey Epstein, centre, is shown in custody in West Palm Beach, Florida. Source: Associated Press

Epstein was taken off a suicide watch last month for reasons that have not been explained, and was supposed to have been checked on by a guard every 30 minutes. But investigators learned those checks weren't done for several hours before he was found Sunday morning, according to a person familiar with the case who was not authorised to discuss it and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Attorney General William Barr ordered warden Lamine N'Diaye temporarily assigned to the Bureau of Prisons' regional office while the FBI and the Justice Department's inspector general investigate. The two guards were not identified.

The exact manner of Epstein's death has not been officially announced.

He was placed on suicide watch last month after he was found on the floor of his cell with bruises on his neck, but he was later returned to the jail's special housing unit for inmates needing close supervision.

the Manhattan Correctional Centre in New York. Source: Associated Press

Yesterday, Barr said that he was "frankly angry to learn of the MCC's failure to adequately secure this prisoner," adding: "We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability."

The warden of an institution in upstate New York has been named the acting warden at the jail.

Eric Young, president of the union council that represents prison guards, said that such reassignments are routinely done to "protect the integrity of investigations until any formal action, if any, is warranted."

One of Epstein's guards the night he took his life was not a regular correctional officer, one of those familiar with the case said. Union local president Serene Gregg told The Washington Post that one guard was a fill-in who had been pressed into service because of staffing shortages.

Epstein was being held without bail on federal sex trafficking charges that could have brought 45 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors in New York are pursuing a parallel investigation into whether any if his associates will face charges for assisting him in what authorities say was his rampant sexual abuse of girls as young as 14.

According to police reports, FBI records and court documents, Epstein had a team of recruiters and other assistants who knew of his penchant for girls and lined up victims for him.

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The wealthy American was accused of trafficking underaged girls for sex. Source: 1 NEWS