(As originally published with additional photos, Tue, October 3rd 2023, 9:38 PM EDT)
NEW YORK (TND) — It was one of the coolest places to go shopping for clothes, 30 years ago. Even better was the prospect of becoming an Abercrombie & Fitch model.
Times have changed, the brand has suffered, and now a two-year BBC investigation found allegations of exploitation at sex parties thrown by Abercrombie’s former CEO and his British life partner.
The BBC says they used “a highly organized network” involving “a middleman to find young men” for sex events, and eight men told the BBC “they were exploited or abused” at the events.
Mike Jeffries, now 79, was the CEO from the 1990s to 2014. Neither he nor partner Matthew Smith, now 60, would speak to the BBC, and that alleged middleman denied doing anything wrong, saying the men who attended showed up “with their eyes wide open.”
According to the BBC, Jeffries “transformed A&F from a failing heritage outfitter into a multi-billion-dollar teen retailer by selling sex appeal, with preppy all-American shirtless male store models and provocative billboards.”
Outside of business, from 2009 to 2015, he hosted events at his New York home and luxurious hotels in places like London, Paris, Venice, and Marrakesh.
Some details from the BBC investigation:
- Alleged victims said the middleman had “a missing nose covered with a snakeskin patch. The BBC has identified him as James Jacobson.”
- It got “documents — including emails, flight tickets and detailed travel itineraries — that supported key points of the men’s accounts.”
- Half “alleged they had been initially misled about the nature of the events or not told sex was involved. Others said they understood the events would be sexual, but not exactly what was expected of them. All were paid.”
- “Several told the BBC the middleman or other recruiters raised the possibility of modeling opportunities with A&F.”
- “All except one said they felt harmed by the experience.”
The BBC story contains descriptions of sexual acts that allegedly took place.
According to the BBC, two former U.S. prosecutors independently reviewed what it uncovered and “called for an investigation,” since “sex trafficking includes getting an adult to travel to another state or country to have sex for money by using force, fraud or coercion.”