MIT professor placed on leave for secretly accepting money from Jeffrey Epstein

“The actions of a senior faculty member have raised new concerns. In keeping with MIT practice on faculty discipline, I have asked his department head to consider any appropriate action."

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Image Credit: Roger Barnett/Flickr

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Friday that a professor has been placed on leave after secretly accepting $225,000 in donations from convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. According to a newly released report, the MIT professor also received a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein prior to his conviction in 2008.

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty and was convicted by a Florida state court of soliciting a prostitute and procuring an underage girl for prostitution. He served less than 13 months in jail with work release as part of his plea deal.

On July 6, 2019, Epstein was arrested again and charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. According to the indictment, he sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, Palm Beach, and other locations.

On August 10, 2019, Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in New York.

In September 2019, The New Yorker reported that Joichi Ito, the director of the M.I.T. Media Lab, had received at least $1.7 million from Epstein, including $1.2 million for his own outside investment funds. Ito attempted to conceal Epstein’s identity by listing the donations as “anonymous” and by accepting at least $7.5 million in donations secured by Epstein but listed under other donors, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Ito resigned last year due to the scandal.

According to a newly released report, MIT professor of mechanical engineering Seth Lloyd “received a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, which he acknowledged was deposited into a personal bank account and not reported to MIT.”

In 2012, Lloyd received two donations of $50,000 from Epstein to MIT. In 2017, Epstein gave Lloyd $125,000 to donate to MIT, while Lloyd “purposefully failed to inform MIT” that convicted sex offender Epstein was the donor.

In a recent statement, the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation said, “The Committee is disappointed by the errors in judgment in accepting donations from Epstein and in keeping them secret. While it is true that MIT did not have in place a policy for vetting controversial donors or accepting money from them, the report makes clear there were multiple opportunities to stop the Epstein donations and halt efforts by Joi Ito and Seth Lloyd to cultivate him as a donor. It is regrettable that no one with the knowledge, opportunity and the authority to do so stepped up to end the Epstein funding.”

In an email to the MIT community, MIT president L. Rafael Reif wrote, “Today’s findings present disturbing new information about Jeffrey Epstein’s connections with individuals at MIT: how extensive those ties were and how long they continued. This includes the decision by a lab director to bring this Level 3 sex offender to campus repeatedly.

“That it was possible for Epstein to have so many opportunities to interact with members of our community is distressing and unacceptable; I cannot imagine how painful it must be for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Clearly, we must establish policy guardrails to prevent this from happening again.”

Reif added, “The actions of a senior faculty member have raised new concerns. In keeping with MIT practice on faculty discipline, I have asked his department head to consider any appropriate action. In the meantime, in consultation with the provost, dean and department head, I have placed him on leave. Department leadership will reach out to his advisees, students and staff.”

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