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Report: FBI investigating ex-Abercrombie CEO amid sex trafficking case

The former boss of Abercrombie & Fitch is reportedly under FBI investigation after men said he sexually exploited them for decades.
Report: FBI investigating ex-Abercrombie CEO amid sex trafficking case
Posted at 6:42 PM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 20:42:44-05

The FBI is investigating the former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch over accusations that he sexually exploited men at lavish parties around the world for years, according to the BBC.

Citing several sources Tuesday, the publication said federal agents specializing in alleged sex crimes are now working alongside federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York to interview and issue subpoenas to potential witnesses in the case of Mike Jeffries.

The FBI and the Eastern District of New York have declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Jeffries.

Jeffries headed the A&F empire during its heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s, transforming it from failing outfitter to multibillion-dollar teen retailer using provocative advertising to ramp up sales, including the seminude models displayed in catalogs and in person outside of physical stores.

This marketing strategy was what allegedly allured aspiring male models to attend global events Jeffries hosted with his British partner, Matthew Smith, between 2009 and 2015. But the men, many of whom were recruited under the impression a career was on the horizon for them, arrived to find they had been tragically misled.

In October, the BBC published an extensive investigation that accused Jeffries and Smith of using these events to sexually abuse men in a way it alleged amounted to sex trafficking.

At least eight young men told the publication a middleman with a snakeskin patch covering his missing nose, whom the BBC identified as James Jacobson, deceptively recruited them to attend events — which many believed to be networking opportunities — in New York, London, Paris, Venice and Marrakesh.

Most of the young men, including one hopeful model named David Bradberry, were allegedly sexually "auditioned" by Jacobson before he would introduce them to Jeffries and Smith at their parties. Bradberry said he accepted an invitation to Jeffries' former home, but after mentioning his career aspirations to the former fashion head, he claims Jeffries manipulated him into having sex.

Others said they would arrive at the events to find other male recruits, all coerced into sexually engaging with Jeffries and Smith or ordered to have sex with each other, they told the BBC. Afterward, staff at the events would allegedly hand the men envelopes filled with thousands of dollars.

The BBC says the testimonies were verified using other interviews — including with household staff — along with flight tickets and emailed itineraries. It also said it tracked down Jacobson, who denied wrongdoing and claimed the men went into the events "with their eyes wide open." The publication said Jacobson also repeatedly asked to "do a deal" if he told them details under anonymity.

SEE MORE: Abercrombie & Fitch ex-CEO accused of exploiting young men for sex

At the time the report was published, two former U.S. prosecutors told the BBC its findings called for an investigation into whether the recruited men were sex-trafficked due to them being forced, coerced or manipulated into traveling to another state or country to have sex for money. 

Shortly thereafter, Bradberry filed a civil lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch and Jeffries, claiming the retailer was knowingly "providing the financial lifeblood for a sex-trafficking organization" led by its former head for more than two decades. It claims more than 100 men were manipulated into participating in the alleged sex scheme, while the company intentionally benefited from it and then paid "hush money" to victims who came forward about the abuse.

"The models were led to believe that being sexually abused by the CEO of Abercrombie and his partner at a remote private location arranged by the company was the price that was paid to obtain one of the most coveted roles in the industry — an Abercrombie model," the lawsuit states.

In December, Jeffries also filed a lawsuit against his former employer alleging A&F failed to cover his legal expenses in fighting Bradberry's suit — a payment he claims he's contractually obligated to even after stepping down in 2014.

Jeffires has declined to comment on the allegations against him, and Smith hasn't responded to requests.

At the time of the BBC's initial investigation, Abercrombie said in a statement that it was "appalled and disgusted" by the alleged behavior of its former leader and that it had launched an independent investigation. It also said the company's current leadership team wasn't aware of the allegations against Jeffries.


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