A lawsuit that threatens to sully the Gucci name has been filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. Alexandra Zarini, the 35-year-old great-granddaughter of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci, says her former stepfather sexually abused her from when she was about 6 to age 22. She accuses Joseph Ruffalo of doing such things as crawling into bed with her naked, fondling her, and rubbing his genitals against her. Zarini also alleges that when she was a teen, Ruffalo, a music manager, "encouraged" her to get into drugs; she later went to rehab after using cocaine and crystal meth. Zarini accuses both her mother, Patricia Gucci, and her grandmother, Bruna Palombo, of warning her she'd better stay quiet about all of these allegations.
The three defendants, per Zarini's suit, "tried to avoid, at all costs, what they perceived would be a scandal that could tarnish the Gucci name and potentially cost them millions." (The family no longer has any stake in the Gucci brand but is involved in other endeavors.) In a statement to the Times, Zarini's mother says, "I am deeply sorry for the pain Joseph Ruffalo caused Alexandra. What he did to her is inexcusable." She adds she was "devastated" when Zarini told her about the abuse in 2007, and that she "immediately" sought a divorce. She denies, however, that either she or Palombo engaged in a cover-up. In a statement, Ruffalo's lawyer also "vehemently" denies" his client sexually abused Zarini, adding that Ruffalo and Gucci had been "greatly concerned about the mental well-being of Alexandra and took steps to address her instability." Zarini tells the Times she decided to file suit when she got word Ruffalo was volunteering at an LA children's hospital, which Ruffalo's lawyer denies. (Read more sexual abuse stories.)