By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK, July 18 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge is expected to decide on Thursday whether American financier Jeffrey Epstein will remain jailed while he awaits trial on charges of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls or be released to his Manhattan mansion under house arrest.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman has scheduled a hearing for 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT) in federal court in Manhattan to announce his decision on the money manager who had a social circle that over the years has included Donald Trump before he became U.S. president, former President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.
Epstein pleaded not guilty on July 8 to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges, two days after he was arrested upon arrival at New Jersey's Teterboro Airport in his private plane from Paris. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
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 have urged Berman to keep him there until his trial, saying he could use his vast wealth and connections to flee the United States.
In a one-page summary of his finances submitted to the court, Epstein said he had a net worth of $559 million, with assets including his jet, four homes and two private islands.
Epstein has asked to be allowed to await trial under house arrest, and has offered to pay for private armed guards in his New York home, which is valued at $77 million. One of his lawyers said at a hearing on Monday that Epstein was willing to sign a bail bond of $100 million or more and put up any of his assets as collateral.
Berman expressed skepticism of Epstein's offer, noting that many defendants are held in jail because they "can't make the $500 or $1,000 bail."
In 2016, the judge rejected a similar bail proposal from Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to let him live in an apartment under the watch of privately funded guards, saying wealthy defendants should not be allowed to "buy their way out of prison by constructing their own private jail."
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 New York home turned up hundreds or thousands of pictures of nude women, some of them minors, along with cash, diamonds and valuable art.
Lawyers for Epstein have said their client has had an unblemished record since he pleaded guilty more than a decade ago to a state prostitution charge in Florida and agreed to register as a sex offender.
Critics have called that plea deal, which let Epstein avoid federal prosecution, too lenient.
Alex Acosta, who as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida oversaw Epstein's earlier deal, resigned last week as Trump's Secretary of Labor, saying he did not want to be a distraction for the White House. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.