Five victims of former university physician Richard Strauss wrote a letter calling for state and federal investigation into Les and Abigail Wexner’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Former Lantern Editor-in-Chief

Victims of former university physician Richard Strauss are calling on state and federal officials to investigate Wexner Medical Center board members Les and Abigail Wexner’s ties to late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

In a Thursday letter, five Strauss victims asked Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and U.S. Attorney for the Ohio Southern District David DeVillers to investigate the Wexners due to allegations that Epstein sexually assaulted Maria Farmer in Wexner’s New Albany, Ohio, home in 1996.

Farmer, an artist and graduate student at the time, said in an affidavit included in a defamation suit filed April 16 in Southern New York District Court that she was assaulted by Epstein in Wexner’s mansion.

The document states that Farmer was forced to remain on the property against her will by Wexner’s security team for 12 hours until her father came to pick her up. 

Although Wexner, namesake of the university’s hospital, and Epstein had no known ties to Strauss, who abused at least 177 students during his time at Ohio State, the victims asked for the investigation because “justice denied to one victim of sexual abuse is justice denied to all victims.”

A Wexner family spokesperson said in a statement that the Wexners condemned Epstein’s “abhorrent behavior in the strongest possible terms and severed all ties with him more than a decade ago.”

The spokesperson also said the Epstein house was not a Wexner guest house and was not on land owned by the Wexners.

“Prior to the recent news coverage of Ms. Farmer, Mr. and Mrs. Wexner had no knowledge of her, never met her, never spoke with her, and never spoke with Mr. Epstein or anyone else about her,” the spokesperson said.

Les Wexner serves as chair of the Wexner Medical Center board and Abigail Wexner serves as the vice chair of the Ohio State Board of Trustees.

Bethany McCorkle, communications director in the attorney general’s office, said in an email that the office takes all allegations of sexual assault seriously. 

“In Ohio, primary criminal jurisdiction rests with local prosecutors and police agencies — the Attorney General only has authority over such matters when invited in by local authorities. We will review it and determine an appropriate course of action,” she said. 

The letter raised particular concerns about Abigail Wexner’s position as vice chair of the Board of Trustees.

“It defies comprehension that Mrs. Wexner is still on the Board of Trustees given the credible allegations of her complicity in keeping Ms. Farmer captive for Jeffrey Epstein in 1996, while, at the same time, Ohio State grapples with how to atone for its complicity in allowing a monster to prey on its students for nearly two decades,” the letter reads. 

The letter credited the university for hiring Perkins Coie, LLP, to conduct an independent investigation regarding Strauss and asked for “a similar independent review” of the Wexners’ conduct in relation to Farmer and Epstein. 

“Only OSU can balance the values of the institution and the safety of its students against potential future financial contributions from Abigail and Leslie Wexner,” the letter said. “We also understand this evaluation by OSU is a moral issue, not a criminal justice one. However, complicity to violent sexual assault is.”

University spokesperson Chris Davey said the university declined to comment on the letter.  

Les Wexner detailed his relationship with Epstein, which included the fact that Epstein managed Wexner’s personal finances, in a letter to the Wexner Foundation community posted on the foundation’s website Aug. 8.

Wexner said in the letter that he severed ties with Epstein in 2007 after allegations against Epstein came to light. In the process, Wexner said he discovered that Epstein had misappropriated “vast sums of money.”

“I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path,” Wexner said in the letter. 

Epstein was arrested July 6 and charged with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, according to an indictment unsealed July 8 in a Manhattan federal court. A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York states Epstein “enticed and recruited” dozens of minor girls, some as young as 14, between 2002 and 2005.

Epstein died by suicide Aug. 10 in his jail cell.

Strauss was a team doctor for 17 men’s varsity sports and physician at the Ohio State Student Wellness Center from 1978 to ’98, during which time he abused at least 177 students and student-athletes, according to a report released in May following an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP. The investigation also found that Ohio State failed to act on Strauss’ abuse at the time.  

Ohio State’s latest count, according to a university press release, includes nearly 1,500 instances of Strauss-related abuse. At least 14 Strauss-related lawsuits have been filed against the university. 

Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

This story was updated Dec. 6 at 9:08 p.m. with comment from a Wexner family spokesperson.