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Former model claims in lawsuit she was raped as a teenager by agency executive

Carré Sutton, then known as Carré Otis, said the culture at Elite Model Management was predatory as top executives sexually abused underage models.
Image: Carre Otis on the \"Today\" show in 2011.
Carre Otis on the "Today" show in 2011.Peter Kramer / NBCUniversal

Carré Sutton was a 16-year-old runaway in 1985 when a modeling scout discovered her in Northern California.

It wouldn’t be much longer before Sutton, who then went by Carré Otis, arrived in New York City after catching the eye of Elite Model Management co-founder John Casablancas. The girl who had been homeless months earlier was about to embark on a career under the care of the prestigious modeling agency.

She was a child when powerful adults she depended on at Elite preyed upon her sexually or turned a blind eye to the abuse, according to a lawsuit Sutton filed Thursday in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

New York’s Child Victim’s Act passed in 2019 gives Sutton, now 52 and a resident of Boulder, Colorado, an avenue to pursue legal recourse against defendants Gérald Marie, the head of Elite’s European division, and Trudi Tapscott, a company executive who oversaw models in New York. The law allows civil complaints to be filed in cases of alleged sexual abuse of children, up until the age of 55 for accusers.

“There are few cases in our nation’s history that have tackled such widely accepted sexual abuse and trafficking of young girls as this one,” said Sutton’s lawyer, John Clune. “Carré is a champion and survivor who stands for the countless other women and child models whose cases don’t fit into the narrow parameters of the Child Survivor’s Act.

"We look forward to exposing the predatory history of the modeling industry and holding accountable all of those who contributed to the abuse of some of its most vulnerable young girls and children."

Tapscott and a lawyer who has represented Marie in the past could not be reached for comment Friday. Representatives for Elite also could not be reached.

Marie told The New York Times last year in a story about four women accusing Marie of rape or sexual assault that he “categorically” denied the allegations and said it would be inappropriate to comment further. Sutton was among the four women.

The Guardian reported that Marie’s attorneys previously responded to allegations, saying he was “extremely affected by the accusations made against him, which he contests with the utmost firmness … He intends to actively participate in the manifestation of the truth within the scope of the opened criminal investigation.”

Sutton’s lawsuit claims fraud, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy to commit sexual misconduct. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

She alleges in the lawsuit that Tapscott, who was “in effect a house mother” to young models, approved a plan to send 17-year-old Sutton to live at the Paris home of Marie, a known sexual predator of underage models.

Sutton had spent a few unsuccessful months in New York City when she was sent to Paris to live with Marie with the understanding that it would be beneficial to her career, the lawsuit said.

Instead of her career blossoming, the document stated, Marie repeatedly raped Sutton, trafficked her for sex with other powerful men and supplied her with vials of cocaine.

“Plaintiff moved into Marie’s apartment under the false pretense that he was interested enough in her career success that she could live in his personal residence. … In Marie’s apartment, she was raped repeatedly by Marie and later trafficked by Marie to other wealthy men around Europe. Plaintiff was never paid for her modeling work,” the lawsuit said.

The court document also said that when Sutton first met Marie, he told her she would see success if she obeyed him. But Sutton began rejecting Marie's sexual advances when she turned 18, the lawsuit said. Marie told her no one tells him, "No."

"She was kicked out of his apartment shortly after,” the filing said.

The lawsuit said Marie, now 71, has “been accused of raping at least 15 models under his supervision” and is under criminal investigation in Paris. It also alleges Tapscott failed to disclose to Sutton she “was sending her to live at the home of a sex offender.”

Casablancas greenlit the plan to send Sutton to Paris, the lawsuit said. Casablancas died in 2013.

Casablancas and Marie were known to compete over having sex with young models, the lawsuit said, and the culture of sexually assaulting models who were underage was pervasive in the agency.

“Thus, the very adults responsible for taking care of these child models, were competing amongst themselves to see who could rape the most of them,” the lawsuit said. “The predatory competitive environment among Elite officials in sexually abusing children only encouraged and expanded predatory behavior within the industry.”

Sutton went on to have a successful modeling career under different management, landing magazine covers and becoming a marketable face for fashion designers, the lawsuit said. She also appeared in movies.