ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- At the center of Jeffrey Epstein's secluded New Mexico ranch sits a sprawling residence the financier built decades ago -- complete with plans for a 4,000-square-foot (372-square-meter) courtyard, a living room roughly the size of the average American home and a nearby private airplane runway.

Known as the Zorro Ranch, the high-desert property is now tied to an investigation that the state attorney general's office says it has opened into Epstein with plans to forward findings to federal authorities in New York.

Epstein, who pleaded not guilty this week to federal sex trafficking charges in New York, has not faced criminal charges in New Mexico. But the scandal surrounding him has still sent a jolt through the rural southwestern state as it comes under scrutiny for laws that allowed him to avoid registering as a sex offender following a guilty plea a decade ago in Florida.

"New Mexico continues to lag behind the rest of the country in strengthening outdated and weak laws that fail to protect our children from abuse," New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.

"This is a huge black eye for our state."

In addition to confirming his office had interviewed possible victims of Epstein who visited his ranch south of Santa Fe, Balderas' spokesman also said Friday that the attorney general would renew his push for legislation requiring anyone with a sex trafficking conviction to register as a sex offender in New Mexico.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.