Jean-Luc Brunel, a longtime French modeling agent who was detained in December 2020 as part of an inquiry into allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, was found dead in his cell on Saturday, the Paris prosecutor's office said.
The investigation, opened in August 2019, was initially a preliminary inquiry into whether late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had committed sex crimes on French territory or against French victims.
Brunel, 76, who had founded a US modeling management company with Epstein, had denied any wrongdoing related to his association with him, but was eventually accused of one count of raping an underage girl.
Brunel was found hanged in his cell in the Sante prison in Paris at around 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office said. An investigation has been opened, the spokesperson said.
A 2016 deposition by victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre's civil suit against Epstein's accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, implicated Brunel as one of a number of prominent men who slept with underage women provided by the two traffickers.
Giuffre also said in the affidavit that Epstein bragged to her that he had “slept with over 1,000 of Brunel’s girls.”
A day after the deposition's release to the public in August 2019, Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell in an apparent suicide. Brunel subsequently went into hiding but on December 16, 2020 was located and arrested.
Brunel was also accused of sexual misconduct prior to the Epstein affair. In December 1988, several American models represented by Brunel said in an interview on the BBC's 60 minutes that they were pressured into having sex with men or risk their careers. Two of the women accused Brunel of drugging them, and one said she was raped while under the drug's influence.
In addition, a former model from Brunel agency recounted in a 2003 book that on one occasion over ten models were invited to a party held by Brunel and then forced to have sex with the men present. In both cases, the women did not immediately complain for fear of risking their careers, and Brunel was not prosecuted.