By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK, July 18 (Reuters) - American financier Jeffrey Epstein will remain behind bars while he awaits trial on charges of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls, a U.S. judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman announced his decision at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, rejecting Epstein's request to stay under house arrest in his New York mansion valued at $77 million. Epstein has pleaded not guilty.
The money manager's social circle over the years has included Donald Trump before he became U.S. president, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.
Epstein is accused of arranging for girls under the age of 18 to perform nude "massages" and other sex acts, and of paying some girls to recruit others, from at least 2002 to 2005. Prosecutors have said that a search of Epstein's Upper East Side home, which has been valued at about $77 million, turned up hundreds or thousands of pictures of nude women, some of them minors, along with cash, diamonds and valuable art.
Epstein is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a fortress-like jail that has been criticized by inmates and lawyers for harsh conditions. Prosecutors had urged Berman to keep him there until his trial, saying he could use his vast wealth and connections to flee the country. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis)
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