In the wake of a civil class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S., dozens of women — including some from Winnipeg — have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against fashion mogul Peter Nygard.
The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges Nygard sexually assaulted 10 women, several under the age of 18, at his Bahamian estate, as part of a decades-long sex-trafficking scheme.
Greg Gutzler, a lawyer with New York City-based Dicello, Levitt and Gutzler, and Lisa Haba, of Orlando, Fla.-based Haba Law, said their offices have been inundated with phone calls, emails, and messages on social media from women who claim Nygard committed similar sex acts against them — as well as from others who claim to be witnesses to such abuse.
"We've had several from Winnipeg, Toronto, China and New York," Gutzler confirmed Friday. "We have had multiple people contact this firm.
"People are coming forward saying, 'That's exactly what happened to me'... and we've had third-party corroborating witnesses — people who worked there," the lawyer said. "People are saying they're glad to finally be able to come forward."
Haba added: "We have had people reaching out to us. We've been having phone calls coming in, messages on social media. We have been inundated. We've already had dozens of women contact our office."
The 99-page lawsuit, filed Thursday in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, details numerous allegations of sexual assault and "deviant" sexual behaviour against 10 women. The women, three who were 14 and three who were 15 at the time of the alleged offences, claim they were raped by Nygard at his Bahamas home, called Nygard Cay.
The lawsuit alleges females were invited to the property for so-called "pamper parties," where they were told they would get free photo shoots, manicures and massages.
The court documents also accuse Nygard of committing "deviant acts," including asking the women to defecate and urinate on him, and give him their menstrual blood for consumption.
Nygard's companies are also listed in the civil suit. The court documents allege the companies not only paid for the drugs, alcohol, entertainment and food at the parties, but supplied money allegedly used to pay victims and accomplices.
The women are seeking financial damages, and a jury trial on behalf of themselves and an unknown number of others.
No statement of defence has been filed and the allegations have not been proven in court.
Nygard, 77, could not be reached for comment.
On Thursday, Nygard's lawyer, Jay Prober, called the allegations "completely false, without foundation, and are vigorously denied." He said the lawsuit was linked to a long-standing legal feud between Nygard and his Bahamian neighbour, American hedge-fund billionaire Louis Bacon.
On Friday, Prober said he knows why so many women are coming forward.
"The lawyers in the United States are out soliciting more people... to me, it is unprofessional," he said.
"People could be jumping on the bandwagon, if they see dollar signs. That's the modus operandi of class actions in the U.S., which, in part, is about money."
Prober said he has talked to Nygard by phone, and the Winnipeg-raised businessman is "in a fighting mood."
"He is ready to fight back. He is in a fighting mood for sure," the lawyer said.
Meanwhile, Haba said she can recall her first meeting with an alleged victim last year.
"I was so moved by the raw pain I saw in her eyes," the lawyer said. "It was an emotional moment. There is no doubt in my mind she was telling the truth."
Haba said all the women the lawyers have talked to are still dealing with what they went through.
"They were brought to such a level of horror many have trouble living with it. There are signs of PTSD and signs of trauma."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.