Bloomberg Law
Dec. 3, 2018, 11:02 PM

Democrats Want Probe of Acosta’s Role in Sex Abuse Plea Deal

Tyrone Richardson
Tyrone Richardson
Chris Opfer
Chris Opfer

More than a dozen House Democrats are asking the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General to look into the labor secretary’s 2007 plea deal with a hedge fund manager accused of abusing underage girls.

The letter to the DOJ, obtained by Bloomberg Law, comes days after a Nov. 28 story by The Miami Herald detailed a plea agreement that Secretary Alexander Acosta, then a U.S. attorney in Miami, reached with lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein. The deal landed Epstein behind bars for 13 months on prostitution convictions and effectively stopped an investigation into claims he abused as many as 80 women, the bulk of them underage at the time.

The letter was signed by 15 House members, including 11 who represent Florida congressional districts, calls for the inspector general to look at the deal that “had the effect of shutting down a Federal Bureau of Investigation examination of whether there were more victims and astonishingly granted immunity to potential co-conspirators.”

“As Members of Congress intent on ensuring the equal application of justice and gravely concerned with the plague of sex trafficking and sexual abuse, we urge you to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the non-prosecution agreement Mr. Acosta entered into with Mr. Epstein,” the lawmakers wrote, led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

A DOL spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the issue was already addressed, during Acosta’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“This matter has been publicly addressed previously, including during confirmation hearings,” the DOL official said in an email. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida has defended the actions in this case across three administrations, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida is the appropriate office for your inquiry.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

President Donald Trump nominated Acosta for labor secretary last year after fast-food executive Andy Puzder bowed out of the confirmation process following reports of decades-old domestic abuse. The HELP Committee approved Acosta’s nomination In March 2017, in a 12-11 party-line vote. The full Senate confirmed his nomination in a 60-38 vote in April 2017.

Acosta, who is widely said to have his eye on a federal judgeship, is rumored to be a possible nominee for attorney general.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at; Chris Opfer in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Cynthia Harasty at; Terence Hyland at