Peter Nygard, the Canadian fashion manager, has been charged with sex trafficking, conspiracy of extortion and other crimes involving dozens of women and teenage girls in the United States, the Bahamas and Canada, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in Manhattan.
Mr.Nygard, 79, used the leverage of his company, his money and his employees to recruit adult and “ underage female victims ” for the sexual gratification of him and his employees over a 25-year period, according to a federal government of nine members. indictment. He was arrested on Monday in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the request of the United States under an extradition treaty, the US law firm in Manhattan said.
The women accused of targeting Mr. Nygard often came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and in some cases had a history of abuse. Mr. Nygard sexually assaulted some of them, while others were assaulted or drugged by his associates “to ensure their compliance with Nygard’s sexual demands,” the indictment said.
Mr. Nygard’s lawyer in New York, Elkan Abramowitz, declined to comment on the allegations. Jay Prober, his Winnipeg attorney, vehemently denied the charges against his client. He said Mr.Nygard, who is now being held in a prison in Manitoba, is expected to be justified.
In February, The New York Times explained how a long, ugly feud between Mr Nygard and his billionaire neighbor in the Bahamas had led to a lawsuit accusing Nygard of sexually assaulting minors there. Interviews with dozens of women and former employees described how alleged victims were lured to Nygard’s home in Bahamas. The article documented a pattern of complaints about him dating back 40 years and showed how he had used his money and threats to silence alleged victims.
The indictment includes some of the same allegations as the lawsuit filed in New York in February. More than 80 women, from the Bahamas to Denmark, have applied as plaintiffs.
April Telek, 47, a Canadian actress, said she was raped by Mr. Nygard in 1993 and held against her will after she applied for a modeling job. She has made a statement to the Winnipeg police and is part of the lawsuit. She said she had not been contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This is the best – the best that possibly has happened to me, and to so many women that he has caused terror for years,” said Ms. Telek. She added, “It feels like Christmas morning.”
For decades, Mr. Nygard himself as a playboy, describing the young women he surrounded himself with as “the source of youth,” according to a video he made about his efforts to fight aging. Born in Finland, he grew up in Canada and launched his multinational fashion company Nygard International in Winnipeg more than 50 years ago.
Nygard was brought into a Canadian courtroom on Tuesday afternoon with chains on his wrists and ankles.
He was ordered pending further legal proceedings. A bail hearing was scheduled for January 13, but Mr. Prober, his attorney, said he planned to seek such a hearing as early as next week. Although Canadian courts usually allow extradition to the United States, the process can take years.
Mr.Nygard divided his time between Canada, the United States and the Bahamas, where he built a vast Mayan-themed site with sculptures of animal predators and naked women that he described as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.
The indictment accused Nygard of the prospect of modeling and other fashion industry jobs to lure women and teenage girls. It said he also used money from his company to pay for so-called pampering parties in Los Angeles and the Bahamas that include free drinks, manicures and massages.
He forced dozens of victims to engage in “ commercial sex, ” defined in federal law as any sexual act performed in exchange for something of value, and used threats and promises to grant or deny model opportunities or financial support to to maintain control over them, the indictment said.
A privately held company that once employed 12,000 people, Nygard International is best known for selling leggings and wavy tops to middle-aged women through its own outlets and department stores in Canada and the United States.
Mr. Nygard, estimated to be worth approximately $ 750 million in 2014 by Canadian Business Magazine, was known for combining his professional and personal life. In a 1980 news article, part of his Winnipeg office was described as a ‘passion well’ with a mirrored ceiling and a sofa that could be turned into a bed at the ‘push of a button’.
Mr. Nygard retired from his business in February after federal authorities raided his Los Angeles home and New York headquarters, and major customers like department store chain Dillard’s dropped his clothing line. The Times reported that month that the raids were part of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault that had been going on for at least five months.
In March, the company filed for bankruptcy in Canada and the United States.
William K. Rashbaum and Kim Wheeler contributed to reporting.