NEW YORK – Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced the unsealing of a nine-count indictment charging Canadian fashion executive PETER J. NYGARD, 79, with racketeering, sex trafficking, and related crimes arising out of a decades-long pattern of criminal conduct involving at least dozens of victims in the United States, the Bahamas, and Canada, among other locations.
NYGARD was taken into custody on December 14, 2020, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada by Canadian authorities after the United States requested Canada issue a Provisional Arrest Warrant pursuant to the extradition treaty between the two countries.
The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.
If you believe you are a victim of the sexual abuse perpetrated by Peter Nygard, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI, and reference this case.
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
From at least in or about 1995, up to and including in or about 2020, PETER J. NYGARD was the leader and founder of an international clothing design, manufacturing, and supply business headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada, with major offices and warehouses in the United States, including New York City and California. NYGARD operated a constellation of corporate entities organized in various countries (the “Nygard Group”). Over this 25-year period, NYGARD used the Nygard Group’s influence, as well as its employees, funds, and other resources, to recruit and maintain adult and minor-aged female victims for NYGARD’s sexual gratification and the sexual gratification of his friends and business associates. NYGARD and his co-conspirators, including Nygard Group employees, used force, fraud, and coercion to cause women and minors to have sex with NYGARD and others.
NYGARD frequently targeted women and minor-aged girls who came from disadvantaged economic backgrounds and/or who had a history of abuse. He controlled his victims through threats, false promises of modeling opportunities and other career advancement, financial support, and by other coercive means, including constant surveillance, restrictions of movement, and physical isolation. NYGARD forcibly sexually assaulted some of his victims. Other victims were forcibly assaulted by NYGARD’s associates or drugged to ensure their compliance with his sexual demands.
NYGARD maintained personal and quasi-professional relationships with certain of his victims, whom he referred to as “girlfriends” or “assistants.” NYGARD required these “girlfriends” to travel and to stay with him regularly; to engage in sexual activity at his direction (including with NYGARD, with each other, and with others); and to recruit new women and minor-aged girls for NYGARD to have sex with. NYGARD controlled these “girlfriends” through a variety of means, including force, fraud, and coercion. At times, NYGARD and his associates provided illegal drugs and alcohol to “girlfriends” before sexual activity and threatened or berated “girlfriends” if they did not agree to participate. NYGARD sometimes forcibly assaulted “girlfriends” who did not comply with NYGARD’s sexual demands – or caused others to do so. NYGARD dictated the daily activities of “girlfriends” and the details of their appearance. “Girlfriends” were also under constant surveillance by NYGARD and his associates and were not permitted to leave premises without NYGARD’s express permission.
NYGARD used various tools to recruit women and minors for sex, including:
- Events hosted at NYGARD’s properties in Marina del Rey, California and in the Bahamas, including so-called “Pamper Parties,” named for the free food, drink, and spa services that NYGARD made available. NYGARD frequently used a “girlfriend” or another employee to approach a chosen woman or girl to indicate his interest in sex. NYGARD engaged in sexual activity with the victim on the premises and paid her cash. Some unwilling participants, including minors, were drugged to force their compliance with his sexual demands. Other victims had no advance warning of NYGARD’s interest in sexual activity before being lured to a secluded area of the property where NYGARD used physical force and/or psychological pressure to coerce sex.
- Sex and “swingers” clubs, where NYGARD directed and pressured “girlfriends” through manipulation, intimidation, degradation, threats and, on occasion, force, to engage in sex with other men in order to facilitate NYGARD having sex with other women and for his own sexual gratification.
- Sexual “swaps” with male friends and business associates, who would bring NYGARD a “date” for sex in exchange for sexual access to one of NYGARD’s “girlfriends.” NYGARD did not inform “girlfriends” in advance that he would trade them for sex and often used manipulation, intimidation, degradation, and threats to ensure compliance.
NYGARD paid his victims for commercial sex using Nygard Group funds, including by putting “girlfriends” on the payroll of Nygard Group entities as “models,” “assistants,” or in other positions. NYGARD also used the façade of legitimacy his fashion business created – as well as the Nygard Group’s business operations, reputation, and resources – to facilitate and conceal his crimes in other ways. Among other things, NYGARD used the promise of modeling and other fashion industry jobs to lure victims, Nygard Group money to fund “Pamper Parties,” and Nygard Group employees to recruit potential victims to attend those parties, including screening attendees for their physical appearance to confirm that NYGARD would find them attractive, and maintaining a register of Pamper Party attendees’ personal information, documenting their names, contact information, weight, and physical measurements. NYGARD also used Nygard Group employees and funds to intimidate, threaten, and corruptly persuade individuals who alleged that he was engaged in sexual assault and sex trafficking, including by paying witnesses for false statements and affidavits, threatening witnesses with arrest, prosecution, and reputational harm, and attempting to cause reputational harm and discredit potential witnesses by disseminating false or embarrassing information.
* * *
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and the NYPD.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Jacqueline C. Kelly, Allison Nichols, and Celia V. Cohen are in charge of the prosecution.