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MIT professor denies misleading school over Epstein funding

COLLIN BINKLEY
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Jeffrey Epstein MIT

FILE - In this April 3, 2017 file photo, students walk past the "Great Dome" atop Building 10 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass. In an online statement published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, MIT professor Seth Lloyd denied accusations that he misled the school about the source of two $50,000 gifts he facilitated from disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein in 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor is denying accusations that he misled the school about two $50,000 gifts he facilitated from Jeffrey Epstein in 2012, arguing that institute officials had “full knowledge” Epstein was the donor.

In an online statement published Thursday, Professor Seth Lloyd called the accusations “completely false” and said he followed the school's policies “to the letter” when he accepted Epstein's offer to support his scientific research. It was Lloyd's first public comment since MIT placed him on paid administrative leave Jan. 10.

“I never hid the identity of Epstein as the donor prior to the donation being accepted,” Lloyd wrote. “I facilitated the submission of the donation approval request to the MIT officers exactly so that they could vet it. MIT knew that the donor was Epstein and fully approved the donation with this knowledge.”

Lloyd declined to comment further.

The allegations against Lloyd were published in a Jan. 10 report by Goodwin Procter, a law firm hired by MIT to examine the school's relationship with Epstein. The report found that Epstein donated $850,000 to MIT between 2002 and 2017 and visited the campus at least nine times.

Three senior officials became aware of Epstein's donations in 2013 and considered cutting ties, the report found, but they ultimately approved the gifts as long as they were kept quiet.

The report alleges that Lloyd accepted two $50,000 donations from Epstein in 2012 but "purposefully failed to inform" MIT officials that Epstein was the source and had been convicted of sex crimes in Florida in 2008.

“Professor Lloyd knew that donations from Epstein would be controversial and that MIT might reject them,” the firm found. “We conclude that, in concert with Epstein, he purposefully decided not to alert the Institute to Epstein’s criminal record, choosing instead to allow mid-level administrators to process the donations without any formal discussion or diligence concerning Epstein.”

Lloyd's account says he put Epstein's agent in touch with MIT officials, as instructed by his department, but never hid the source. As evidence, he published portions of a June 2012 email that Lloyd says was sent by an MIT official to Epstein's accountant.

“Many thanks for your message on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein; we look forward to receiving the first installment of his gift,” the MIT official wrote.

The investigative report says Lloyd later admitted to breaching his professional duties, but Lloyd disputes that, saying, “I made no such concession.”

Lloyd separately received $60,000 as a personal gift from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, which the report called a “possible violation of MIT policies” because it was not processed through the school. Lloyd says he used the money for research and believes he followed MIT policies.

He also sought and received $125,000 from Epstein in 2017 to support a sabbatical, but investigators found no fault in his handling of that gift.

MIT officials provided a statement from Goodwin Procter standing by the firm's report.

"To the extent Professor Lloyd disagrees with the report, we are fully confident the findings in the report are consistent with the evidence and information that we collected, including from Professor Lloyd," the statement said.

Epstein's ties with MIT have roiled the campus and led to multiple resignations over the past year. In total, the school received $750,000 from Epstein after his 2008 sex crimes conviction and continued to accept his money until 2017. Of that total, $525,000 went to the MIT Media Lab, whose former director, Joi Ito, resigned last year.

Epstein, 66, killed himself in his New York City prison cell in August after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges. The wealthy financier had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. In lawsuits, women say the abuse spanned decades.

Lloyd previously issued a public apology to Epstein's victims, and on Thursday he reiterated his remorse.

“None of this in any way diminishes my lapse in judgement in accepting Epstein’s donations to MIT in the first place,” he wrote. “I stand by my previous apology for these mistakes of mine and take full responsibility for them. I ask only that I be judged for what I actually did, no less and no more.”