Private equity billionaire accused of rape in Epstein's mansion

Leon Black
Leon Black

The co-founder of US private equity giant Apollo has been accused of raping a woman at Jeffrey Epstein's New York home in a US lawsuit.

Lawyers for Cheri Pierson allege that Leon Black, the 71-year-old financier, "raped her on the third floor of Jeffery Epstein's Manhattan mansion" in 2002. She is seeking unspecified damages over the claims.

The claims follow a separate dispute with former Russian model Guzel Ganieva, who also claims Mr Black raped her and has sued him for defamation for claiming it was a "consensual affair".

Mr Black, who is worth an estimated $10bn, has denied both sets of allegations.

His lawyer, Susan Estrich, said the allegations in Ms Pierson’s lawsuit were "categorically false and part of a scheme to extort money from Mr Black by threatening to destroy his reputation.... We intend to defeat these baseless claims".

Both claims have been filed by US law firm Wigdor. Mr Black's lawyers accuse the firm of a "campaign" against him and have threatened to pursue a counter claim of defamation.

Ms Pierson alleges she was a cash-strapped single mother who had already been paid to give massages to Mr Epstein, the late financier and convicted sex offender.

Ms Pierson alleges in a US court filing that she was left in "excruciating pain" after her assault by Mr Black.

She alleges that Mr Epstein arranged for her to meet Mr Black. "One day, she received a call from Epstein, who said that he had arranged for her to meet a powerful businessman. Unbeknownst to her, the man was Leon Black."

The legal filing said: "Ms Pierson seeks to hold Black and those that assisted him accountable for the severe and debilitating pain that she has suffered."

Mr Black co-founded Apollo, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, in 1990 and served as chief executive until 2021 when he resigned over his links to Mr Epstein.

A report by law firm Dechert found that Mr Black paid Mr Epstein a total of $158m (£116m) in fees for advice on trust and estate tax planning in the five years to 2017. The sum was much higher than had been previously reported.

Mr Epstein died by suicide in a Manhattan jail cell while on trial for sex trafficking charges in 2019. The financier was known for his web of contacts among bankers, politicians and investors who he entertained at his mansion and on a private island.

Ms Pierson sued Mr Black under the New York's Adult Survivors Act, a law giving sexual assault victims a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers, even if the alleged abuse took place long ago and statutes of limitations have expired.