Posted: September 3, 2019
Joseph Recarey, a former Palm Beach detective who had a knack for making others smile, who tackled the island’s largest and most important investigations, and who cared deeply for his family and friends, died Friday, May 25, 2018, after a brief illness. He was 50.
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Recarey was one of the most decorated police officers in the history of the department with more than 150 commendations, 11 officer-of-the-month awards and a 2013 Palm Beach Police Foundation Officer of the Year award, Reiter said. He worked in several units, including the Organized Crime Vice and Narcotics Unit and the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit. He was a lead detective in many major investigations, including the high-profile solicitation-of-minors case against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
No other information about the cause of death was released.
For Reiter, business tycoon Jeffrey Epstein wasn’t any more formidable than any of the other 8,000 or so wealthy and powerful people living on the island. Police had handled sensational cases involving wealthy residents before — from the murders of heiresses to the rape case involving William Kennedy Smith, of the Kennedy family.
The easternmost town in Florida, Palm Beach is a 10.4-square-mile barrier island between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean populated by some of the richest people in the country. President Trump has his “winter White House” in Palm Beach, and the town makes news as much for its glitz as it does for its unusual efforts to preserve its well-mannered image, like banning shirtless joggers.
But it was a little surprising, even to Reiter, to learn that one of its residents had a revolving door of middle and high school girls coming to his gated compound throughout the day and night.
In their first media interviews about the case, Reiter and Recarey revealed new details about the investigation, and how they were, in their view, pressured by then-Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer to downgrade the case to a misdemeanor or drop it altogether.
“It became apparent to me that some of our evidence was being leaked to Epstein’s lawyers, who began to question everything that we had in our probable cause affidavit,” Reiter said.
The day of the search on Oct. 20, 2005, they found that most of Epstein’s computer hard drives, surveillance cameras and videos had been removed from the house, leaving loose, dangling wires, according to the police report.
But the girls’ description of the house squared with what detectives found, right down to the hot pink couch and the dresser drawer of sex toys in Epstein’s bathroom.
Reiter said his own trash was disappearing from his house, as his life was put under Epstein’s microscope. Private investigators hired by Epstein’s lawyers even tracked down Reiter’s grade school teachers, the former chief said. Questions were raised about donations that Epstein had made to the police department, even though Reiter had returned one of the donations shortly after the investigation began.
Recarey, meanwhile, said he began to take different routes to and from work, and even switched vehicles because he knew he was being tailed.
“At some point it became like a cat-and-mouse game. I would stop at a red light and go. I knew they were there, and they knew I knew they were there. I was concerned about my kids because I didn’t know if it was someone that they hired just out of prison that would hurt me or my family,” Recarey said.
Despite relentless political pressure, Reiter and Recarey soldiered on, and their determination yielded evidence that supported most of the girls’ allegations, they said. They had phone records that showed Epstein and his assistant, Kellen, had called many of the girls. Epstein’s flight logs showed that the calls were made when Epstein was in Palm Beach.
They obtained dozens of message pads from his home that read like a who’s who of famous people, including magician David Copperfield and Donald Trump, an indication of Epstein’s vast circle of influential friends. There were also messages from girls, and their phone numbers matched those of many of the girls Recarey had interviewed, Recarey said. They read: “Courtney called, she can come at 4,” or “Tanya can’t come at 7 p.m. tomorrow because she has soccer practice.”
They also found naked photographs of underage girls in Epstein’s closet, Recarey said.
There were also witnesses: Two of Epstein’s butlers gave Recarey sworn interviews, confirming that young girls had been coming and going at the house. One of the butlers, Alfredo Rodriguez, told Recarey that when he was tasked with cleaning up the master bath after Epstein’s sessions with the girls he often discovered sex toys. Once, he accidentally stumbled on a high school girl, whom he identified, sleeping naked in Epstein’s spa, he testified in a 2009 court deposition.
Rodriguez said he was given the job of paying the girls, telling Recarey that he was “a human ATM machine” because he was ordered by Epstein to keep $2,000 on him at all times. He was also assigned to buy the girls gifts. Rodriguez gave Recarey copies of pages from a book that Epstein and his staff kept with the names and phone numbers for many of the Palm Beach girls, Recarey said.
Rodriguez, however, held onto the bulk of Epstein’s “little black book,” and in November 2009 tried to sell it for $50,000 to an undercover FBI agent posing as a victim’s lawyer. He was arrested, and sentenced in 2012 to federal prison, and died three years later following an illness. The book — listing personal phone numbers for a cavalcade of Epstein’s powerful friends and celebrities — eventually became public as part of a civil lawsuit. It listed more than 100 female names and phone numbers under the headings “massage” in every city where Epstein had homes.