NEW YORK—Defending himself against the charges he faces from federal prosecutors, billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein repeatedly swore Monday that he didn’t know the sex-trafficking ring he ran was underage. “I admit they were young-looking, but I was completely unaware that the large network of girls I was sexually exploiting were all minors,” said Epstein, adding that he was pretty sure he asked each and every one of the teenagers to confirm that they were legal adults before luring them to his home and forcing them to perform sex acts on him and his friends. “They were probably wearing makeup that made them appear to be older 20-year-old sex slaves instead of the actual 13- and 14-year-olds I was molesting and raping. Had I known, I would have told them to go right back to wherever it was I smuggled them from and tricked some adult women into my horrific sex-trafficking ring. I guess in some ways, you could say that I’m the real victim here.” Epstein added that the nude photos of underage girls seized from his home were for an art project and not for pornographic purposes.