Federal complaint alleges Caroline Scheufele is jewelry world’s ‘Ghislaine Maxwell’
The co-owner of Big Apple jewelry store to the stars is the Ghislaine Maxwell of the bling world — who “pimped” out her female workers to wealthy men to make sales, a federal sexual harassment complaint claims.
Desiree Gallas, a former public-relations rep for the Swiss-made jewelry firm Chopard — which has sold glittering pieces to celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds, Nick Jonas and Uma Thurman — claims her boss, Caroline Scheufele, ordered her to sexually service well-heeled clients, according to her US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.
“[Scheufele’s] directive was reminiscent of Ghislaine Maxwell’s notorious ‘pimping’ of women on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein and is indisputably unlawful,” the complaint, which was submitted in October ahead of a yet-to-be filed lawsuit, states.
Like Maxwell — who stands accused of recruiting girls for the late pedophile financier — Scheufele allegedly offered herself up sexually while urging her victims to do the same, according to the filing.
“[Scheufele] regularly engaged sexually with high-net-worth male clients to make sales … and pushed and encouraged me to do the same,” Gallas, 38, says in the complaint.
While Gallas worked at the firm, between 2014 and 2019, the two women courted potential buyers at film industry events — including one where Scheufele palled around with rapist former film mogul Harvey Weinstein — and New York City hotspots, according to the complaint.
During one business dinner at the posh Cipriani Downtown in Soho in November 2017, Gallas claims she was “horrified” when she spotted a rich potential buyer from Florida groping Scheufele, the complaint states.
“To my extreme dismay, a male client was openly grabbing, folding and kissing [Scheufele]…I was literally horrified when he then attempted to kiss me. I did not feel safe,” Gallas says in the complaint.
But when Gallas confronted Scheufelel about it, she allegedly fired back: “You do anything you need to do to close that sale.”
During another incident, a client allegedly stroked the top of Gallas’s cleavage while checking out a necklace she wore to the star-studded Diamond Ball gala in September 2017, according to the complaint.
Gallas claims she reported it to Scheufelel, saying, “I do not come with the necklace.”
But Scheufelel allegedly replied, “How much is the necklace? You just might.”
On another occasion, when Gallas told Scheufelel that a male Chopard executive “stared at my breasts” and placed his hands “inappropriately close to my rear end” Scheufelel allegedly told her, “Don’t worry about it.”
Nothing was done to stop the “sexual harassment,” she claims.
Later, Gallas was flown to the Cannes Film Festival in 2018, where Scheufelel spent time with her friend Weinstein, who at the time had been accused of rape but not convicted of it, according to the complaint.
“I was literally revolted by Weinstein and feared being ‘pimped’ by Scheufelel; as such I made every effort to avoid him,” according to the complaint, which makes no note of Weinstein’s behavior.
The incident came after Scheufelel “gleefully allowed a male client to touch her nipples in my presence” at the celebrity-packed film fest two years earlier, making her “massively uncomfortable,” according to the complaint.
Gallas — who is also suing her former employer for emotional damages for allegedly calling her a “zucchini” — claims Chopard, which has a shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, has a long-running “sex for dollars” workplace culture and practice.
But after she formally complained about the alleged sexual harassment, she was fired in August 2019, she claims.
“The sexual harassment and ongoing retaliation against me… has devastated my life,” Gallas’ complaint states. She seeks to be compensated for back pay, punitive damages and other costs.
Reached by phone, Scheufelel declined to comment.
A rep for the company sent a statement alleging that Gallas is a disgruntled worker, who is simply trying to “tarnish” the jewelry company.
“As the third generation to lead Chopard, Ms. Scheufele is an open, demanding and respected industry leader known for her professionalism and business acumen. Ms. Gallas was terminated for cause a year ago,” it states. “Chopard believes that her sensationalist claims are nothing more than a desperate tactic to seek a financial windfall and to tarnish the image of the company.”
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