The new four-part documentary series Filthy Rich, premiering Wednesday, May 27 on Netflix, chronicles Epstein's pattern of abuse

By Laura Barcella
May 26, 2020 03:45 PM
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Haley Robson
Netflix

When disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan prison cell last August, he left behind a horrific legacy: a long list of sexual assault and trafficking allegations from girls, as young of 14, that had followed him for years.

Epstein, 66 -- a wealthy, well-connected sex offender who previously served a little over a year in a Palm Beach, Fla., county jail -- evaded prosecution for most of his alleged crimes until July 2019, when he was charged with sex trafficking of a minor and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. 

Dozens of women have come forward saying Epstein assaulted, raped or held them captive at one of his various estates.

Denied bail before his pending trial, Epstein's 2019 death left many accusers upset they never got the chance to confront him, feeling that justice would never be served. 

The new four-part documentary series Filthy Rich, premiering Wednesday, May 27 on Netflix, chronicles Epstein's downfall (the show was eight months into production when he was arrested). But the doc's primary aim, according to director Lisa Bryant, is to give survivors a voice.

"This is their story to tell," Bryant explains to PEOPLE. "We wanted to do a really deep dive into ... how power and money concealed these hideous acts."

"We wanted to expose it through the eyes of the women, who were so brave," Bryant says. "And we wanted to give them the platform of more than one quick soundbite."

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Haley Robson, a former teen "recruiter" for Epstein, is one of the survivors featured in the series. Robson tells PEOPLE she was a "typical" 16-year-old high schooler in West Palm Beach when she first heard about the reclusive multi-millionaire in 2004. "I was just a normal teenager. I played football, I did equestrian," she says.

When a classmate told Robson she could make $200 by visiting Epstein's nearby mansion and giving him a massage, Robson agreed. "I was giving him a massage, the first and only time, and he did try to touch me," she tells PEOPLE. "A part of me was scared that he was going to rape me or hurt me. I don't know if it was God intervening or what ... but he didn't force himself on me." 

After Robson rebuffed Epstein, she says, he suggested she return with girls who were more consenting, offering to pay her a fee for each one.

In Filthy Rich, Robson estimates that she recruited about 24 teens. She was honest about what they might expect during their encounters with Epstein, she says.

Robson agreed to help Epstein, she tells PEOPLE, both for monetary reasons -- she was trying to save up to leave West Palm Beach after being raped at 15 -- and because she didn't grasp the gravity of the situation. "I was just a 16-year-old girl doing what this man had asked me to do. As a [teenager], you don't really stop to think about the bigger picture; you're not mature enough," she says.

Robson's recruiting efforts eventually drew the attention of federal prosecutors, and she became the target of an investigation, along with Epstein and other alleged recruiters like Sarah Kellen.

Robson says her life has been "chaotic" ever since. "I've had reporters come by my house nonstop. I've had reporters call my parents. I've had the FBI show up at my job. I have been served subpoenas."

Though her role in Epstein's sex ring has sometimes been a source of media ire, Robson, a minor herself at the time of her involvement, wants to move forward. She hopes Filthy Rich will help her -- and other Epstein survivors -- do just that: "[Participating in the docuseries] was obviously very emotional for me. I'm hoping people can open their hearts and their minds, try to be mindful of what we went through." 

Director Lisa Bryant Lisa hopes the film acts as an instrument of change. "Survivors need to be respected," she says. "The people who ... enabled him and covered up Epstein's crimes for years, I hope will be brought to justice. As a female director, it's a rare opportunity to help set that change in motion."