FBI investigate after ex-Abercrombie boss sex claims

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Mike Jeffries, former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, faces accusations of exploiting men for sex
By Rianna Croxford, investigations correspondent
BBC News and BBC Panorama

The FBI has begun an investigation after the BBC revealed claims that the former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) sexually exploited and abused men at events he hosted around the world.

Mike Jeffries and his British partner also face a civil lawsuit alleging they ran a sex-trafficking operation.

FBI agents are now interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses, the BBC understands.

A lawyer for Mr Jeffries declined to comment.

The investigation is being led by FBI agents specialising in alleged sex crimes, and federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York, according to several sources.

The FBI and the US Attorney’s Office both declined to comment.

In October, a BBC documentary and podcast series revealed allegations that Mike Jeffries and his partner Matthew Smith had exploited young men for sex at events they hosted in their New York residences and worldwide in luxurious hotels.

Watch: Signing an NDA “felt like intimidation” – David Bradberry

Eight men told the BBC they had attended these events in cities including London, Paris, and Marrakesh between 2009 and 2015.

They alleged Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith would engage in sexual activity with them or “direct” them to have sex with each other.

Documents uncovered by the BBC, including flight tickets and event itineraries, revealed there was a highly organised operation involving a network of recruiters and a middleman, James Jacobson.

The BBC tracked down Mr Jacobson, now 70, who denied any wrongdoing and said that men went to these events “with their eyes wide open”.

When approached at his home, Mr Jacobson repeatedly asked to “do a deal”, saying “leave my name out and I’ll tell you everything”, which was refused by the BBC.

A&F told the BBC it was “appalled and disgusted” by Mr Jeffries’ alleged behaviour. The brand has since suspended a substantial part of his retirement payments totalling $1m (£792,242) a year.

Through his lawyer, Mr Jeffries has always declined to comment – while Mr Smith has never responded to the BBC’s allegations.

More on this story

If you’re in the UK: Watch Panorama’s The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side of Cool, on BBC iPlayer now and listen to the podcast series, World of Secrets: Season 1 – The Abercrombie Guys on BBC Sounds.

If you’re in the US: The Abercrombie Guys: the Dark Side of Cool is available to view on BBC Select.

And if you’re outside the UK, listen to the podcast series, World of Secrets: Season 1 – The Abercrombie Guys, wherever you get your podcasts.

Mr Jeffries, who stepped down in 2014, is considered the modern-day-founder of A&F. During his two decades in charge from the 1990s, he led the company’s global expansion and created offshoot brands including Hollister and Gilly Hicks.

Following the BBC’s investigation, A&F was accused in a civil lawsuit of funding a sex-trafficking operation led by Mike Jeffries and Matthew Smith between 1992 and 2014.

The lawsuit alleges that it is likely more than 100 men were sexually abused by Mr Jeffries while he was chief executive and that young men were manipulated “under the guise of providing them with the modelling opportunity of their dreams – becoming an Abercrombie model”.

“It would not surprise me to hear that law enforcement is looking into this,” said Brad Edwards, a civil lawyer who is now representing some of the alleged victims.

Previously, Mr Jeffries’ lawyer declined to comment on the allegations in the civil lawsuit, saying: “The courtroom is where we will deal with this matter.”

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