Model Sues Abercrombie & Fitch Saying Former CEO Ran Sex Trafficking Ring

  • A male model sued Abercrombie & Fitch, saying the company allowed its former CEO to exploit models. 
  • The lawsuit comes after the BBC published a report with claims the CEO ran a sex trafficking ring. 
  • CEO Mike Jefferies ‘sexually abused his many victims’ the lawsuit said.

A former model for Abercrombie & Fitch on Friday sued the fashion retailer, alleging it allowed its former CEO Mike Jeffries to run a sex-trafficking organization during his 22-year tenure.

Jeffries, who left Abercrombie in 2014, converted the chain from a struggling retailer of hunting apparel to a seller of must-have teen clothing. But he faced criticism for the company’s sexualized marketing, including billboards and beefy models that alienated potential customers who didn’t fit into its image.

The lawsuit comes after a BBC report earlier this month raised similar allegations against Jeffries and his partner Matthew Smith.

The lawsuit, filed by David Bradberry in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, says Jeffries had modeling scouts scouring the internet and elsewhere to identify attractive young men seeking to be the next face of Abercrombie. Often, these prospective models became sex-trafficking victims, sent to New York and abroad and abused by Jeffries and other men, all under the guise that they were being recruited to become the next Abercrombie model, the lawsuit contends.

“Jeffries was so important to the profitability of the brand that he was given complete autonomy to perform his role as CEO however he saw fit, including through the use of blatant international sex trafficking and abuse of prospective Abercrombie models,” the suit said.

Per the suit, these practices occurred between at least 1992 to 2014. Jeffries, Smith, and the Jeffries Family Office LLC are named in the suit. It seeks class-action status and estimates that over a hundred young models, in addition to Bradberry, were victims.

“Among other things, Jeffries sexually abused his many victims and caused his victims to engage in commercial sex acts, specifically sex acts for which his victims received things of value, including money, promises of career advancement, and promises that Jeffries would hire them to work as Abercrombie models,” according to the suit.

A&F, based in New Albany, Ohio, declined to comment Friday. Earlier this month, the retailer said that it had hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the issues raised by the BBC. It said the company’s current leaders and board of directors were not aware of the allegations of Jeffries’ sexual misconduct.

“For close to a decade, a new executive leadership team and refreshed board of directors have successfully transformed our brands and culture into the values-driven organization we are today,” the company said. “We have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any kind.”

Jeffries’ attorney, Brian Bieber, said in a statement that Jeffries “will not comment in the press on this new lawsuit, as he has likewise chosen not to regarding litigation in the past. “

“The courtroom is where we will deal with this matter,” Bieber added.

Once a household name for affluent teens and now benefiting from a resurgence in popularity, the company long faced controversy under the direction of Jeffries.

In the 2000s, the company faced multiple accusations of racism and discrimination against employees of color. The focus on these controversies heightened during the pandemic thanks to the documentary “White Hot.”

Earlier in October, the BBC published a two-year investigation into Jeffries and Smith that alleged the pair were involved in organizing events that recruited young men for sex acts. Men said they were exploited or abused, and others noted that modeling opportunities were tied to participation in sex acts.

In some cases, Jeffries and Smith were present during the sex acts.

The company told the BBC that they were “appalled and disgusted” by the claims made about Jeffries.

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