A 20-something woman who was among Jeffrey Epstein’s coterie of young females worked for Hollywood’s queen of publicity with links to the multimillionaire pervert, DailyMail.com has learned.
Peggy Siegal, 72, once commanded the attention of studio heads, New York glitterati and A-list stars like Robert De Niro, Leonardo Di Caprio and George Clooney at her lavish events.
And Epstein’s 20-something companion, Julia Stepanova, spent months working for the public relations powerhouse as an intern, sources tell DailyMail.com.
Now Siegal has become a professional pariah because of her association with the deceased pedophile. She denies that they had a close friendship.
And Stepanova has all but disappeared from public view.
Stepanova worked in the Manhattan office of Siegal’s boutique firm where the PR veteran routinely employed young women to send invites to Hollywood stars from her infamous list of 30,000 contacts and organize her meticulously-choreographed, plush events.
It is unclear how Stepanova, who was photographed at occasional society events, actually landed a job with Siegal, a position coveted by ambitious college graduates trying to break into the Hollywood machine and who have subsequently gone on to run their own agencies or take high-powered positions elsewhere in the industry.
But it is coincidental that a friend of Epstein worked for Siegal. who has herself admitted that she ‘exchanged favors’ with the financier. She arranged the 2010 dinner honoring Prince Andrew at Epstein’s home and added him to the guest list for a few of her movie screening parties from 2010 until 2016.
In the interview with Vanity Fair, published last month, Siegal, 72, tried to distance herself from Epstein, 66, who killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in August while facing federal child sex trafficking charges.
One source told DailyMail.com: ‘I believe that Karma is the driving force behind Peggy’s downfall after grossly mistreating so many people for so many years, especially the impressionable young women and men who worked for her.’
Siegal told Vanity Fair that she was aware that Epstein had spent time in jail but could not recall if she knew he pleaded guilty to soliciting sex with a minor in 2008 in Florida.
‘I had no idea about the underage girls,’ she told Vanity Fair.
‘I mean, I knew him, but I didn’t know much about him. Yeah, I spoke to him on the phone. He came to some screenings. I was never privy to his private life. I knew nothing about the girls. Nothing at all.’
The PR maven said that she was not paid by Epstein, nor had a contract with him and backtracked on an earlier statement that she made to the Hollywood Reporter which said that the financier would fund her travel expenses.
Siegal has not been accused of any connection to Epstein’s criminal acts.
She had previously suffered a blow to her business after losing a lucrative job with The Weinstein Company when it was shuttered after allegations of rape and sexual assault were made against its founder, Harvey Weinstein, who is currently on trial in New York.
A Siegal insider confirmed that Stepanova worked in the publicist’s New York office, saying that her accent was Eastern European and that she was believed to be from Ukraine.
Another source told DailyMail.com that Stepanova was an intern and that she had come to work at the Peggy Siegal Company because of Epstein. ‘There were employees that were suggested by Jeffrey. It was frustrating,’ the source added.
Siegal told Vanity Fair that she didn’t always know the names of employees but sources said that no one would have been hired without her knowledge.
Aside from Stepanova, Vanity Fair asked Siegal about hiring another intern in 2018 on Epstein’s recommendation, to which she replied: ‘Everybody’s friend has a daughter who wants to be an intern. I don’t even know their names.’
In an email, Siegal’s attorney, Bert Fields, told DailyMail.com: ‘My information is that Ms. Stepanova was an intern who was briefly with the company. Peggy does not hire the interns, and does not recall who recommended Ms. Stepanova.’
Stepanova was known to be among a tight-knit group of women who socialized and travelled with Epstein following his release from Florida prison in 2010 after he was convicted for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
In December 2015, Stepanova was pictured with Epstein at his Upper East Side townhouse, where he is seen embracing her with his hands on her bottom.
Casually dressed and holding a glass of water, she then re-entered Epstein’s home.
She was also seen emerging from Epstein’s residence several months later in February 2016.
The previous year, in May 2015, Stepanova was pictured deep in conversation with Epstein while walking on Madison Avenue, close to his E71st Street townhouse.
Stepanova went by the name Julia S Cuomo on her Facebook page, where her profile picture showed her in a glamorous blue dress at a society event.
Her picture was also taken by veteran society photographer Patrick McMullan on the New York ‘It girl’ circuit. In the shots, she poses alongside others in Epstein’s inner circle, Russian model Svetlana Pozhidaeva and chef Jennifer Kalin, at the New York Academy of Art’s TriBeCa Ball in April 2014.
Siegal was photographed at the same event.
In another social media photo, Stepanova pouts alongside Pozhidaeva in the back of an SUV.
Pozhidaeva, who goes by Lana, was at one time represented by MC2 Model Management, an agency founded by Epstein’s friend Jean-Luc Brunel with a reported $1million investment from the financier.
Brunel, who was last located in South America, according to Le Parisien, has been accused of supplying underage girls to Epstein and assaulting models. He has denied the charges.
It is unclear where Stepanova’s career progressed following her stint at the Peggy Siegal Company.
Her Facebook page has been made private, with the name changed to ‘Julia Como’ and the picture removed but her location is still listed as New York. She has no LinkedIn profile or other evident social media.
Attempts to reach Stepanova by DailyMail.com were unsuccessful.
Siegal has been at the pinnacle of New York society since the Eighties, organizing intimate, exclusive movie screenings and events on the competitive Oscar campaign circuit, where she intermingled powerful figures from the showbiz, business, political and media worlds.
There is barely an A-lister she has not been pictured schmoozing with: De Niro and director David O. Russell at a lunch for the movie Joy at La Grenouille; front row at New York fashion week with Hillary Swank; on the red carpet with Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield, Colin Firth, Anna Wintour and Woody Allen at her company’s premiere for the director’s movie, Magic in the Moonlight.
She boasted a direct line to studio bosses, hitched rides on private jets and vacationed on the superyachts of wealthy friends in the South of France and the Caribbean.
Epstein, 66, hanged himself in his New York jail cell on August 10 while facing federal child sex trafficking charges.
The financier was arrested at Teterboro airport in New Jersey on July 6 when his private jet touched down from Paris. On the same day, investigators found hundreds of ‘sexually suggestive’ photos locked in a safe at his Upper East Side home of nude or partially nude young women and girls.
Days after Epstein’s arrest, the New York Times ran an article titled: ‘Jeffrey Epstein Was a Sex Offender. The Powerful Welcomed Him Anyway.’
In the article, Siegal, along with Dr Eva Andersson-Dubin, founder of a breast cancer center at Mount Sinai hospital and wife of billionaire hedge-funder, Glenn Dubin, were described as Epstein’s ‘powerful female friends’ and ‘social guarantors’.
Siegal told the Times in July: ‘He said he’d served his time and assured me that he changed his ways.’
Epstein also socialized with Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin and Prince Andrew following his 2008 conviction, according to The Edge.
Following his release from jail and return to New York in 2010, Epstein attended Siegal’s screening of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps where he mingled with guests including Trump’s now treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s now commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Siegal organized the December 2010 dinner at Epstein’s home in honor of Prince Andrew who was staying at the financier’s townhouse. The Duke of York’s stay at Epstein’s home – after the financier was released from jail as a registered sex offender- has been widely criticized and led to his step-down from public duties for the Royal Family.
Siegal arranged for dinner guests to include journalists Katie Couric, Charlie Rose, George Stephanopoulos, comedian Chelsea Handler, director Woody Allen and his wife, Soon-Yi Previn.
Epstein was still being invited to Siegal’s events in March 2016, when he was a guest at the premiere of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in New York.
The publicist also lamented the demise of her career due to her Epstein connection – she told Vanity Fair that she only had one paid job in the last year. FX, Annapurna and Netflix have all declined to work with her.
At one point, Siegal compared her problems to the Holocaust. ‘I mean, if I had been in Nazi Germany, it could not have been worse… I thought, Oh, my God, I’m on the train station. I’m getting on that train and I’m going to the camps,’ she said.
She later apologized on Page Six for making those remarks.
An ex-employee characterized the Vanity Fair article as entirely accurate, saying that ‘her character is in that piece’.