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This article was published 2/3/2020 (325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NASSAU, Bahamas — It was the summer of 2015 and she walked up the stairs to Peter Nygard’s bedroom thinking it was her chance to become a model.
She had just graduated from Grade 9. She was 14 years old and a virgin. It was a dream coming true, she thought.
Instead, she says she was raped.
As she recounts her story over the course of two separate interviews Sunday and Monday, a disturbing pattern of allegations emerges against Nygard: young women and girls from impoverished backgrounds were allegedly recruited by his staff at a Nassau mall and university campus to attend "pamper parties" at his estate, enticed by promises of luxuries, money and modelling opportunities.
The Free Press is not naming the woman, now 18 years old, at her request. She is one of 50 women — including dozens of Canadians and at least one Winnipegger — who have accused Nygard, 78, of drugging, raping and sodomizing them. The accusations span at least five countries, three continents and four decades.
As well, 10 women filed a class-action lawsuit on Feb. 13 against Nygard in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York claiming he raped them. Greg Gutzler, co-counsel on the lawsuit, says women continue to approach the firm with similar stories.
"The dozens of new accusers who have contacted us from around the world, and whose allegations span decades, share a tragic story with common patterns and details," Gutzler said.
"These brave women, most of whom do not know one another, are coming to us with alarmingly similar allegations of assault and degradation perpetrated by a serial abuser."
Nygard has repeatedly maintained his innocence, claiming he’s the subject of an elaborate conspiracy to destroy his reputation by people with a personal vendetta against him. The allegations have not been proven in court.
Requests for comment were sent to Jay Prober — one of Nygard’s attorneys — and to a Nygard spokesman but were not responded to by deadline Monday. In past interviews and statements, Prober told the Free Press the women accusing his client of rape were lying after being bought off. He has said Nygard will be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing and fully vindicated.
Nygard has also reportedly been under investigation by a joint child-exploitation task force for months. On Feb. 25, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and detectives with the New York Police Department raided Nygard’s international headquarters in Times Square.
Multiple sources told the Free Press the Mall at Marathon in Nassau — where Nygard owned a retail shop — as well as the University of Bahamas campus, were common recruiting grounds.
At the time the woman was allegedly raped in June 2015, she was on summer vacation after graduating Grade 9. She says that year she had her first boyfriend and they would walk around the school grounds holding hands.
One Saturday, she went to the mall to see a movie with her sister and cousin. Nygard had a retail store in the mall at the time that has since shut down.
"We were supposed to go watch a movie, and then we ended up passing a store, the Nygard Slims store, and these two (female employees) were standing outside.… That’s when she asked us if we wanted to come inside to try on the pants," the woman said.
Inside, the woman and her two family members were given clothes to try on. She said the store had only recently opened and was still being set up. As a result, she said there was no changing room, so they were ushered into a back room and told to change there.
While they were undressing, the woman said the employees tried to record them. They asked them to stop, she said.
The woman, who is small in stature, said she was unable to fit even the smallest size of pants available for purchase at the store, so she returned them to the workers.
That’s when she first saw Nygard.
"Nygard came and took my measurements, because he said people like me come inside his store and he wanted to make sure his customers have something that could fit them," she said.
“(Nygard’s employee) told me she was coming to pick me up and what time to be ready.... She said (we would) sit down and talk about the modelling.”
As Nygard took her measurements, she said he touched her waist, thighs and ankles, but that she wasn’t uncomfortable. She also claims Nygard asked if she wanted to model for his clothing line.
The woman said she felt flattered and excited at the possibility, since she’d long held an interest in makeup and fashion, but wasn’t sure she’d be able to, since she was still in secondary school.
Before she left the store, she said she took a photograph with Nygard and gave one of the female employees her telephone number. She was told someone would be in touch about modelling opportunities.
Three or four days later, she said she got a phone call.
"(Nygard’s employee) told me she was coming to pick me up and what time to be ready.... She said (we would) sit down and talk about the modelling," the woman said, adding she was told to wear makeup, high heels and a dress.
When she arrived at Nygard Cay, an oceanfront property located in the exclusive, gated community of Lyford Cay, she said she was ushered into a party. She said she was told to sit down at a table and eat a meal.
There was a poker game underway that Nygard was playing in. The woman said she waited for a long time hoping the job interview would take place, but no one discussed modelling with her.
She said she was nervous and had been practising answers to questions she thought might come up during the interview. Eventually, she said Nygard approached her and told her to follow him somewhere quiet so they could "talk about business."
"I was following Nygard thinking we were going to discuss the modelling, but I ended up inside his bedroom. He told me that I could sit down and get comfortable and then he closed the blinds and locked the door and turned on the TV," she said.
“I was following Nygard thinking we were going to discuss the modelling, but I ended up inside his bedroom. He told me that I could sit down and get comfortable and then he closed the blinds and locked the door and turned on the TV."
On the TV, she claims there was pornography playing that showed a man rubbing feces on a woman’s face.
"I was confused about what was going on," she said.
She said Nygard went to a closet and got a dildo and lubrication. He came back to the bed and instructed her to use the items to perform a sex act on him, the woman said, before he stripped naked.
"I did what he said because I didn’t want him to hurt me, I didn’t know anyone there, so I don’t think there was nothing much I could have done," she said.
She said she performed the sex act on him while he masturbated.
"After that he started to take off all my clothes and caress all over my body. I was crying, begging him to stop and trying to push him off," she said.
“I did what he said because I didn’t want him to hurt me, I didn’t know anyone there, so I don’t think there was nothing much I could have done."
She claims Nygard stripped her naked, pinned her to the bed, held down her hands, and violently raped her.
When the alleged rape was over, she said she went into his bathroom and washed her face, before getting dressed. She claims Nygard handed her an envelope and escorted her back downstairs.
Shortly after, a woman drove her home as she cried, she said. When she got home, she said she found blood in her underwear.
Inside the envelope, there was more than $600 in cash, she said, which made her feel worse.
"I felt like I had done something wrong because if I hadn’t went there nothing would have happened," she said.
"I was completely traumatized."
For a long time, she told no one — not even her parents, who she said still don’t know about what she claims happened at Nygard Cay.
She insists she’s received no money for stepping forward to share her story and is motivated only by a desire to see Nygard criminally prosecuted for rape.
Nygard has repeatedly maintained his innocence, claiming the accusations are being orchestrated by Louis Bacon, the American hedge-fund billionaire he’s had a public feud with for years. The two men are neighbours in the Bahamas. Their spat turned increasingly vitriolic over time, spawning more than two dozen lawsuits and accusations of insider trading, membership in the Ku Klux Klan and murder plots.
The woman said she is not being paid to lie about Nygard. She claims Nygard is the one who is lying.
"Of course he would lie, because no man (in his 70s) should be dealing with a (14) year old," she said.
For months, she said she thought she was the only one. Eventually, she learned 50 women were claiming Nygard raped them.
When asked how the alleged rape changed her, the teenager — slight and small framed — answered:
"I don’t trust no one."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.