A lawsuit recently filed in New York against clothing store chain Abercrombie & Fitch, which is frequently found in shopping malls in the United States – has accused the company of funding a sex-trafficking ring.
Documents submitted to the court claim that the company allowed ex-CEO Mike Jeffries “unfettered access” to resources to support his “criminal enterprise”.
The lawsuit follows a BBC investigation into allegations Mr Jeffries exploited men at events he hosted while CEO.
A brand spokesperson commented that the company would not be commenting on the case.
The lawsuit also accuses Mr Jeffries and his British partner Matthew Smith of sex trafficking, sexual misconduct and rape. Mr Smith was also contacted for comment by the BBC.
The case has been brought under the New York Adult Survivors Act, which allows people to file civil sexual abuse claims that would have otherwise exceeded the statute of limitations.
It is seeking class action status – where one or several people sue on behalf of a much larger group.
“Because of this lawsuit and the brave men that have come forward, Abercrombie will have to answer for its many unacceptable actions and inactions that have destroyed the lives of dozens of young men,” said Brad Edwards, a civil lawyer who is now representing some of the alleged victims.
Earlier this month, the BBC published the findings of an investigation into a highly organised network that used a middleman to recruit young adult men for events with Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith. In response,
Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) – which also owns the Hollister brand – previously told the BBC it was “appalled and disgusted” by Mr Jeffries’ alleged behaviour. Through his lawyer, Mr Jeffries declined to comment.
The lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York claims that A&F knew, or should have known, it was providing the “financial lifeblood for a sex trafficking organisation” led by Mike Jeffries between at least 1992 and 2014 – while he was CEO of the company.
It alleges he used A&F’s corporate resources including a jet, transportation, and unlimited amounts of cash to facilitate a sex-trafficking venture, which enabled him to accumulate “new victims at an alarming rate” and he also had access to aspiring models.
“Abercrombie cared about profiting and showed absolute loyalty to Jeffries, including a willingness to spend copious amounts of money on extravagant drug and sex parties, ignoring multiple red flags of criminality in Jeffries’s corporate account activity,” the legal document claims.
Company employees were aware of Mr Jeffries’ sexually exploitative and abusive behaviour and a video that circulated within the corporate office showed him “sniffing what was believed to be cocaine off a man’s penis,” according to the lawsuit.
“While Abercrombie tried to prevent the video from being more widely disseminated, the company did nothing to discourage the behaviour captured in the video and in fact continued to financially reward Jeffries,” it says.
Abercrombie & Fitch has been in trouble before when the company’s boss demanded that the male models who were hired to work as stewards on his private jet wear must boxer shorts and flip-flops.