Front Burner

Epstein-linked modelling agent found dead in prison

How top French modelling agent Jean-Luc Brunel fit into Jeffrey Epstein’s global sex-trafficking ring — and what we know about his recent death in prison.
A cell is seen through a peephole in La Sante prison in Paris in June 2019. Police are investigating after Jean-Luc Brunel, a modelling agent who was close to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was found dead in the prison. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)

Warning: This episode contains details of sexual assault.

On Feb. 19, Jean-Luc Brunel, a top French modelling scout and longtime associate of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was found dead in his Paris prison cell. The 75-year-old was being held on suspicion of sexually abusing minors and sex-trafficking. 

Allegations against Brunel date back to his time as the head of top-ranked modelling agency Karin Models in the '80s and '90s, when he had close personal relationships with Epstein and other powerful figures. The long-running investigation into Epstein revealed ties to Brunel and the role he may have played in a global sex-trafficking ring that potentially targeted thousands of underage women. 

Today on Front Burner, we hear from former models Heather Braden and Thysia Huisman who say they were among Brunel's victims while they were underage and living in New York and Paris in the '80s. Then, we talk to The Guardian's Jon Henley about the circumstances surrounding Brunel's death, which echo that of Epstein's, who died by suicide in prison.

Brunel's death has ignited a firestorm of questions, even conspiracy theories, as another purported sex trafficker dies before anybody gets answers. 

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