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A guest at an event hosted by Abercrombie & Fitch’s former CEO and his British partner said tonight he believed he may have caught HIV after being ‘drugged and raped’ there by a man.
BBC Panorama released a dossier of allegations a ‘highly organised network’ used a middleman to find young men for businessman Mike Jeffries, 79, and Matthew Smith, 60.
The investigative documentary said it had spoken to eight men, some of whom alleged they were exploited at events in places including the US, London, Paris, Venice, Marrakesh and the Caribbean.
One of them, who called himself Alex to protect his family, told how he believed it was likely he contracted HIV after being drug raped at one of the occasions.
He was in his 20s and straight when he went to an event in Marakesh where there were up to 80 other men.
He told the programme: ‘There is some kind of presentation of some of the boys. They had people face down in the water, their ass in the air.
Mike Jeffries when he was still the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch pictured some ten years ago
Barrett Pall spoke to the programme and made a series of allegations in his interview
One of the men, who called himself Alex to protect his family, told how he believed it was likely he contracted HIV after being drug raped at one of the occasions
‘They gave us champagne to drink if we wanted it back there and a big jar of Viagra
‘I was overwhelmed I had never seen anything like this.’
He danced for Jeffries and Smith and claims the CEO grabbed his head and made him make out with him ‘like a whale’.
He felt uncomfortable and went to a back room and fell asleep. But he added to the programme: ‘I woke up and felt that something wasn’t right. I felt like someone had put date rape drug in my drink.’
He found a condom and added ‘I think there is a very good possibility I was drugged and raped. I’ll probably never be able to know for sure what happened.’
Alex broke down later in the programme as he revealed he had started falling ill and was later diagnosed as HIV positive.
He said: ‘It turned everything upside down and it hasn’t been the same since.
‘There is a very slim possibility it could have come from outside the event in Marakesh.’
Panorama said many of the events involved sex acts and the men said they were recruited by a middleman identified as James Jacobson, who denies any wrongdoing. Mr Jacobson wore a snakeskin patch over his nose where he said surgery had gone wrong.
Half claimed they were misled about the nature of the events or not told sex was expected, while others said they knew it would involve sex, but not exactly what was expected of them.
Modelling opportunities with A&F were said to have been raised before they met Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith.
David Bradberry, then 23, told the programme he was introduced to Mr Jacobson by an agent who described him as the gatekeeper to ‘the owners’ of A&F.
Modelling opportunities with A&F were said to have been raised before they met Mr Jeffries, pictured, and Mr Smith.
Allegations were made on the BBC that a ‘highly organised network’ used a middleman to find young men for businessman Mike Jeffries, 79
The men said they were recruited by a middleman identified as James Jacobson, who denies any wrongdoing.
Modelling opportunities with A&F were said to have been raised before they met Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith, pictured
He told reporter Rianna Croxford Mr Jacobson suggested Bruce Weber, who at the time was A&F’s official photographer, should take his picture.
Mr Bradberry claimed: ‘Jim 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. It was like he was selling fame. And the price was compliance.’
Mr Bradberry said he had been made to believe ‘this is where everybody gets their start’.
Mr Jacobson is alleged to have given him $500 and told him it was for his time.
He added: ‘I thought he was just a creepy old dude that I wouldn’t have to see again’.
He accepted an invitation to a daytime event at Mr Jeffries’ former home in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island – recently sold for $29m. Mr Bradberry said he understood Mike Jeffries was a ‘powerful man’ who could ‘make his career’.
Ahead of the event, he said he was given an A&F gift-card to buy an outfit, which he said made it feel ‘legitimate’ and ‘official’.
At the Hamptons, Mr Bradberry said he spoke to Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith about his aspirations to be an A&F model. Later, he said, Mr Jeffries held ‘poppers’ under his nose – a drug which can cause a strong head-rush and disorientation – and later had sex with him.
David Bradberry had wanted to be an actor but found himself invited to one of the ‘events’
Michael S. Jeffries, chairman and CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, speaks at the annual National Retail Federation conference Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009 in New York
Barrett Pall, a former model turned life coach and activist, said he felt pressured into attending an event in the Hamptons in 2011
Shopping bags outside of Abercrombie and Fitch at Faneuil Hall in Boston, MA on July 12, 2010
Men who attended these events told the BBC they involved Mike Jeffries and Matthew Smith engaging in sexual activity with about four men or ‘directing’ them to have sex with each other. Afterwards, the men said they were given envelopes filled with thousands of dollars in cash.
According to the BBC, Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith did not respond to repeated requests for comment but Jacobson said all the men went into these events ‘with their eyes wide open’.
The BBC said that two former US prosecutors had independently reviewed documents and testimony and called for an investigation to determine whether charges for sex trafficking should be brought.
Under US law, sex trafficking includes getting an adult to travel to another state or country to have sex for money by using force, fraud or coercion.
Other allegations on the Panorama special, The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side of Cool include recruiters of the men would get between $500 and $1,000 for each one.
Mr Jacobson is accused of propositioning or sexually ‘auditioning’ them, by requesting or offering to perform oral sex before being introduced to Mr Jeffries
Mr Pall told reporter Rianna Croxford alleged men recruited for the event performed oral sex on him as Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith watched
David Bradberry, then 23, told the programme he was introduced to Mr Jacobson by an agent who described him as the gatekeeper to ‘the owners’ of A&F
A placard of Abercrombie & Fitch hangs at the Abercrombie & Fitch store during the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store on October 25, 2012 in Munich
It is also claimed a personal ‘groomer’ was hired to intimately shave body hair from men attending events, an experience some described as ‘dehumanising’
Other allegations are that the men were required to sign non-disclosure agreements and understood they would be sued if they spoke out
Mr Jeffries’ personal staff, who wore A&F uniforms, are also said to have supervised the men – including in the bedroom – and handed them money afterwards
Barrett Pall, a former model turned life coach and activist, said he felt pressured into attending an event in the Hamptons in 2011.
Then 22, he told the BBC he was recruited by an older model, who received a referral fee, to be his ‘replacement’ for ‘some sort of sexual experience’ with the couple.
He said the older model told him that ‘you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do’ but suggested that ‘the further you go, the better’, and alluded to career opportunities. When he arrived at the event, with staff supervising, he felt under pressure to ‘perform’.
‘How was I going to leave? I didn’t have a car,’ he said. ‘I had a chaperone sitting and watching me.’
Mr Pall said one of the other men recruited for the event performed oral sex on him as Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith watched. He said they then encouraged him to come over to the bed and kiss Mr Jeffries. He added, later two other men recruited for the event had sex with the A&F boss and his partner.
The programme alleged the men were invited to attend events hosted by the fashion firm boss
At one point, he said Mr Jeffries was behind him, groping him.
Brad Edwards, a civil lawyer who the BBC said had examined the 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,’ he added.
Mr Edwards also said Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith might argue the men were consenting adults and the fact that some had engaged in commercial sex in the past was ‘a factor’, although he said past actions were ‘really irrelevant’ to whether a particular commercial sex act was due to force, fraud or coercion. Mr Edwards said there was a ‘very high’ burden of proof for prosecutors, however.
Elizabeth Geddes, who was a federal prosecutor for more than 15 years, 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.’
Mr Jacobson – the middleman, now aged 70 – said in a statement through his lawyer that he took offence at the suggestion of ‘any coercive, deceptive or forceful behaviour on my part’ and had ‘no knowledge of any such conduct by others’.
He said he did not recall making promises of modelling opportunities.
‘Any encounter I had was fully consensual,’ he said. ‘Everyone I came into contact with who attended these events went in with their eyes wide open.’
Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith declined to comment to the BBC.
An Abercrombie & Fitch Co spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We are appalled and disgusted by the behavior described in the allegations against Mr. Jeffries, whose employment with Abercrombie & Fitch Co. ended in 2014, nearly ten years ago.
‘Speaking up and coming forward is not easy, and our thoughts are with those who bravely raised their voices. Since being contacted by the BBC, we have engaged an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the issues raised.
‘The company’s current executive leadership team and board of directors were not aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Jeffries.
‘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. We have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any kind.’
Mr Jeffries was also contacted for comment by the Mail.
BBC Panorama – The Abercrombie Guys: The Dark Side of Cool and World of Secrets Season One: The Abercrombie Guys on BBC Sounds