Former Abercrombie & Fitch Boss Accused of Exploiting Men for Sex

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The former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, the American clothes brand, and his British partner have been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse by multiple men.

Mike Jeffries ran A&F between 1992 and 2014, overseeing its rise from a failing brand to a multi-billion-dollar fashion powerhouse.

A BBC investigation has revealed that Jeffries, along with life-partner Matthew Smith, also oversaw a network that recruited young men for lavish sex-parties, around the world.

The two-year-long investigation, reported by BBC’s Panorama, may warrant criminal prosecution, several American legal experts have said.

Eight men came forward with their accounts, which fact-checkers found bore striking similarities. These men are said to have been in "very vulnerable" points in their lives.

A middleman would recruit young, aspiring models for the events, promising work with Abercrombie & Fitch.

One such middleman, identified as James Jacobsen, insisted young prospects first engage in a sex act with him, with the promise of being introduced to the A&F management if they agreed.

David Bradberry, then 23, told the BBC that he was introduced in 2010 to Mr Jacobson by an agent but said there was no mention of sex. At the meeting, Mr Bradberry said Jacobsen “made it clear to me that unless I let him perform oral sex on me, that I would not be meeting with Abercrombie & Fitch or Mike Jeffries."

“I was paralysed," he said. "It was like he was selling fame. And the price was compliance."

He said that Mr Jacobson paid him $500 “for his time.”

Another man, Alex, recalled being recruited to dance at a lavish party in Marrakech. However, he said that Mr Jeffries kissed him while he was dancing which made him extremely uncomfortable.

Alex said that he eventually fell asleep in a back room, and woke up with a condom inside him. He said that he feared he had been spiked.

"When I put things together, I believe there is a very good possibility I was drugged and raped. I'll probably never, never know for sure the answer of what happened," he said.

All of the men were made to sign non-disclosure agreements. They were not allowed to keep copies but were assured they would be sued if they spoke of what happened at these parties.

They were also monitored by chaperones throughout the events and made to feel like they had to comply with whatever was asked of them, or done to them.

A personal "groomer" was hired to shave body hair from some men, which they described as "dehumanising."

Another man said of his experience:

"I think that this stole any ounce of innocence that I had left. It mentally messed me up. But with the language I now have today, I can sit here and tell you that I was taken advantage of."

Four of the men told the BBC they had been misled about the nature of the events or not told sex would not be involved. The others said they understood the events would be sexual, but not exactly what was expected of them. All of the men were paid.

Brad Edwards, a civil lawyer who examined the BBC's evidence, said US prosecutors should investigate whether what these "brave men" describe could be sex trafficking.

Mr Edwards said: "There may have been evidence of coercion for some of the men, whereas others might not have felt the coercive tactics.

"Remember, coercion is the reasonable belief that serious harm will be inflicted - and serious harm could be reputational harm, financial harm, physical harm."

"Given the stories of these brave men that have come forward, I think it's very important that federal prosecutors look into this case," he added.

Elizabeth Geddes, a former federal prosecutor who also reviewed the BBC findings, said: "There's certainly an argument that these young men were subjected to potential coercion. I think there are grounds for a prosecutor to open an investigation and look closely at this conduct to determine if a criminal prosecution is warranted."

A&F told the BBC it was "appalled and disgusted" by his alleged behaviour.

Mr Jacobsen told the BBC that he was offended at the implication of "any coercive, deceptive or forceful behaviour on my part" and that he had "no knowledge of any such conduct by others."

Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith have not responded to the BBC investigation.

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