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Timeline: Ex-Abercrombie & Fitch boss Mike Jeffries ‘investigated’ by FBI over sex trafficking claims

Mike Jeffries ran Abercrombie & Fitch for two decades during its heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s  (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images)
Mike Jeffries ran Abercrombie & Fitch for two decades during its heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images)

The former chief executive of Abercrombie & Fitch is being investigated by the FBI over allegations of sexual exploitation, abuse and trafficking of men, according to the BBC.

The inquiry follows an investigation by the news corporation that alleged men were recruited for sex events hosted by Mike Jeffries and his British partner Matthew Smith around the world.

Mr Jeffries was the boss of the fashion retailer during its heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s, before stepping down in 2014. The BBC alleges the events took place between 2009 and 2015.

Mr Jeffries is already subject of a civil lawsuit with one alleged victim claiming he ran a sex-trafficking operation.

Abercrombie & Fitch said  a new executive leadership team and refreshed board of directors  had transformed  its brands over past decade (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Abercrombie & Fitch said a new executive leadership team and refreshed board of directors had transformed its brands over past decade (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

On Wednesday, the BBC reported that FBI had started its own investigation with agents interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses. The FBI has been approached for comment by The Independent.

The BBC said a lawyer for Mr Jeffries had declined to comment. The Independent has been unable to contact Mr Smith.

The BBC’s documentary ran in October and alleged that Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith used a network of middlemen to organise events in London, Paris, Venice and Marrakesh between 2009 and 2015.

At least eight men told the news organisation that they attended the events, some of whom claimed they were exploited or abused.

A middleman who allegedly used to recruit some of the men has been named by the BBC as James Jacobson.

In a statement issued to the BBC through his lawyer, he said 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”.

Here is a timeline outlining how the alleged sex trafficking operation was uncovered:

January, 2024

The FBI launches an investigation into the Mr Jeffries over allegations of sexual exploitation, abuse and trafficking of men at lavish events he and his partner hosted in America and abroad, according to the BBC.

Agents specialising in alleged sex crimes and federal prosecutors from the eastern district of New York were reported to be leading the inquiry.

Mike Jeffries launched a lawsuite against Abercrombie & Fitch in December after it refused to cover his legal fees for an earlier lawsuit with claimed he ran a sex-trafficking operation (AP)
Mike Jeffries launched a lawsuite against Abercrombie & Fitch in December after it refused to cover his legal fees for an earlier lawsuit with claimed he ran a sex-trafficking operation (AP)

December, 2023

Mr Jeffries files a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch, alleging it was refusing to cover his legal fees for an earlier lawsuit with claimed he ran a sex-trafficking operation. He claimed the company was ignoring his right to have his fees covered.

October, 2023

BBC air television documentary with podcast series that includes allegations Mr Jeffries and his partner Mr Smith exploited young men for sex at events in New York and worldwide.

The organisation spoke to eight men who attended the events who claimed they were brought in by a middleman, the BBC named as Mr Jacobson. Some of those interviewed alleged to have been exploited or abused.

In the same month, one of those men, David Bardberry, former model for Abercrombie & Fitch sued the company, claiming it allowed Mr Jeffries to run a sex-trafficking organisation.

Abercrombie & Fitch issued a statement that said: “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 organisation we are today.

“We have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment or discrimination of any kind.”

2014

Mr Jeffries stepped down from Abercrombie & Fitch, reportedly with a retirement package of around £20.5 million. He had run the company more than two decades from the 1990s, transforming it into a multi-billion-dollar retail, using sex appeal with adverts of shirtless males to boost sales.

2011

Former model, Barrett Paull, told the BBC he went to an event at Mr Jeffries’ former home on New York’s Long Island in 2011. He claimed to have been recruited by an older model, who told him he would be his replacement for “some sort of sexual experience” with Mr Jeffries and his partner Mr Smith.

“This experience, I think it broke me,” he said.

In the same year, the BBC investigation claimed a large event took place at a hotel in Marrakesh.

2010

Accuser Mr Bardberry, also former model, claimed he was introduced to an alleged middleman, who described himself as the gatekeeper to the owners of Abercrombie & Fitch, while aged 23, in 2010.

Mr Bardberry claimed Mr Jacobson said Bruce Weber - then the firm’s official photographer - should take his picture.

Then, Mr Bradberry said, “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,” he told the BBC. “It was like he was selling fame. And the price was compliance.”

The meeting, for which Mr Bradbury said he was paid $500, was followed by an invitation to Mr Jeffries’ former home in New York, where, he told the BBC, he spoke to him and his partner Mr Smith about his aim of becoming a company model, before having “poppers” given to him by Mr Jeffries, who he later had sex with.