Guards at Jeffrey Epstein’s jail mistakenly let another inmate go free; blunder came just days before accused perv’s suicide

The call that serial bank robber Michael Matthews wasn’t expecting came on Aug. 7 as he sat in his cell at Metropolitan Correctional Center — the same facility where accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

Come down to my office, the counselor told Matthews, his family said. Once there, the career crook – whose robbery rap sheet goes back a quarter of a century – was handed a single-fare MetroCard and paperwork for him to sign off on his release.

Matthews, 58, who had served about eight years of a nine-year sentence on multiple bank robbery charges, didn’t ask questions – and MCC jail staff didn’t realize they just made a big mistake.

The seasoned convict had been in arrested in January after failing to report to a Brooklyn halfway house in September 2018, where he was sent to finish out his sentence, Brooklyn Federal Court documents show. He was also hit with charges for allegedly committing three more bank robberies while on the lam, prosecutors said — meaning he should never have walked out of MCC a free man.

“The government is currently seeking additional information about the circumstances prompting the defendant’s pre-sentencing release, and sets forth below those facts that the government has confirmed to date,” reads an Aug. 13 letter from prosecutors to Judge Dora L. Irizarry regarding the events that led to the mishap.

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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against billionaire financier Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 08: Two of the purported victims of multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild leave a Manhattan court house after a hearing on sex trafficking charges for financier Jeffrey Epstein on July 08, 2019 in New York City. Epstein is charged with having operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Two of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild (R), exit the courthouse after the billionaire financier appeared for a hearing on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, center, sits with attorneys Martin Weinberg, left, and Marc Fernich during his arraignment in New York federal court, Monday, July 8, 2019. Epstein pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges. The 66-year-old is accused of creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
NEW YORK, US - JULY 08: David Boies, attorney for the alleged sex victims of the US financier Jeffreey Epstein case, delivers a speech to the media outside the United States Federal Court on July 08, 2019 in New York, United States. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A residence belonging to Jeffrey Epstein at East 71st street is seen on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein is charged with running a sex-trafficking operation out of his opulent mansion. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Prosecutors exit the room after US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Member of the press listen as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A protest group called "Hot Mess" hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein and President Donald Trump in front of the Federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in New York, Monday, July 8, 2019. Federal prosecutors announced sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Court documents unsealed Monday show Epstein is charged with creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, second from right, listens along with defense attorneys, from left, Marc Fernich, Michael Miller, and Martin Weinberg as Judge Richard M. Berman denies him bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. A judge denied bail for jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges Thursday, July 18, 2019, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Judge Richard M. Berman speaking as he denies Jeffrey Epstein bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and his attorney Martin Weinberg listen during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
This courtroom sketch shows Judge Richard Berman as he speaks during the Jeffrey Epstein bail hearing in federal court, Monday July 15, 2019. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, listens as accuser Annie Farmer, second from right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Farmer says she was 16 when she "had the misfortune" of meeting Epstein and later went to spend time with him in New Mexico. Accuser Courtney Wild, right, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and attorney Reid Weingarten, second from right, listen as attorney Martin Weinberg, right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers have insisted he will not run. They want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. Courtney Wild, third from left, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. She called him a "scary person" and urged detention "for the safety of any other girls" out there. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
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The embarrassing blunder came just days before Epstein, 66, hanged himself in his MCC cell — and officials admitted he was taken off suicide watch by guards despite suspicions he’d already once tried to end his life in jail as the criminal case against him heated up.

Lawmakers launched furious demands for an investigation as conspiracy theories about his shocking demise flooded social media. Officials put two MCC staffers on leave and transferred the warden overseeing the high-profile inmate, amid reports that guards slept on the job and then falsified log entries to make it seem like they were frequently checking on inmates — raising the question of what else may have been bungled behind jail walls.

According to prosecutors’ Aug. 13 letter, Matthews was released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, N.J., in September 2018 and transferred to a residential reentry center in Brooklyn to complete his nine-year prison term. He never showed up at the halfway house, becoming an “escapee,” the letter said. He then robbed three banks the next month, officials said. Authorities picked him up Jan. 15.

On May 2, Matthews pleaded guilty to two of the bank robberies. He was in MCC waiting to be sentenced Sept. 20 when officials there erroneously let him go.

Matthews’s sister, Susan Matthews, told the Daily News she was stunned to learn her brother was facing new charges.

“I didn’t know anything about this,” said Susan, 60, of Middle Village, Queens. “I thought he did everything he was supposed to do. I can’t believe it.”

Matthews’s attorney, Mildred Whalen, of Brooklyn Federal Defenders, said her client didn’t try to run when told the bad news.

“When we advised him that the release was in error, he agreed to surrender and did so,” Whalen said. “Mr. Matthews is facing a significant new sentence, and I believe his surrender demonstrates his remorse for his offense and his commitment to rehabilitation. He showed a great deal of courage and responsibility in his decision.”

The Bureau of Prisons, which oversees MCC, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from The News about Matthews’ mix-up. As of this week, the agency’s inmate-lookup system still listed him as being released Aug. 7.

On the day of his mistaken release, Susan said she received an excited phone call from her brother just moments after he stepped out of MCC.

“You’re not going to believe this, but they let me out. I guess I did my time,” he told her last week.

His family had gleefully embraced his early release, feasting on Chinese takeout the first night of his homecoming at a relative’s place in Astoria. On Aug. 8, the family played flag football and had a picnic to serve Matthews one of his favorite meals: a ham-and-cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. His 24-year old son and 18-year-old daughter – who abandoned her summer vacation in the Poconos when she heard of her father’s return – also spent time with their dad.

Then on Aug. 9, after a shrimp and baked potato lunch at a Long Horn Steakhouse, Matthews called his lawyer to find out his next step.

“He called his lawyer that Friday because he was told he had to report to his parole officer within 72 hours (of his release),” Susan said. “She said to him, ‘What? What do you mean report to your parole officer? Where are you?’ He said, ‘They released me.’ [His lawyer] said, ‘No, they didn’t. They made a mistake — a big mistake.’”

“He was hysterical crying, we were hysterical crying,” she said. “I don’t understand how this could even happen. I don’t know what’s going on in that facility.”

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