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NEW YORK — Guards on Jeffrey Epstein’s unit were working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages the morning of his apparent suicide, a person familiar with the jail’s operations told The Associated Press.

The person said that the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s Special Housing Unit was staffed with one guard working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss jail operations publicly and spoke Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

The jail staff failed to follow protocols leading up to Epstein’s death, according to a report from The New York Times, deepening the fallout from what led to the highly connected financier’s apparent suicide.

Epstein should have been checked on by guards in his cell every 30 minutes, but that didn’t happen the night before his apparent suicide, a law enforcement official told the Times.

The Times spoke to the official on the condition of anonymity. The Associated Press has not independently confirmed the information.

No cellmate: A law enforcement source also told the Times he was alone in his cell Saturday night after his cellmate was transferred. An official with knowledge of the investigation told the paper that the Justice Department was told Epstein would have a cellmate and be monitored by a guard every 30 minutes.

The mystery surrounding how he was able to kill himself in jail comes as investigators have been digging into allegations of sexual abuse and conspiracy against Epstein . An additional federal investigation was launched Saturday after the Federal Bureau of Prison said Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at a high-security jail in Manhattan. He was later pronounced dead from an apparent suicide, the BOP said.

His abrupt death cuts short a criminal prosecution that could have pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of the high-flying financier with connections to celebrities and presidents , though prosecutors have vowed to press on.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found a little over two weeks ago with bruising on his neck, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss it. But he was taken off the watch at the end of July and therefore wasn’t on it at the time of his death, the person said.

Attorney General William Barr, calling for an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, said he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s death while in federal custody.

“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” Barr said in a statement.

Epstein, 66, had been denied bail and faced up to 45 years behind bars on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month. He had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial.

The federal investigation into the allegations remains ongoing, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. He noted in a statement Saturday that the indictment against Epstein includes a conspiracy charge, suggesting others could face charges in the case.

Epstein’s death raises questions about how the Bureau of Prisons ensures the welfare of such high-profile inmates.

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote in a letter Saturday that “heads must roll.”

“Every single person in the Justice Department — from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer – knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him,” Sasse wrote.

Epstein’s removal from suicide watch would have been approved by both the warden of the jail and the facility’s chief psychologist, said Jack Donson, who worked for the Bureau of Prisons for two decades.

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