One of the most iconic fashion brands in the world was hit by startling allegations this week from one of its own.
Alexandra Zarini, the 35-year-old granddaughter of Aldo Gucci — eldest son of founder Guccio Gucci — filed suit this week in the California Superior Court in Los Angeles, according to the New York Times. She alleges that her stepfather, Joseph Ruffalo, sexually abused her for years, and charges that her mother, Patricia Gucci, and grandmother, Bruna Palombo, were involved in both the facilitation and cover-up of the abuse.
Zarini’s suit alleges that Ruffalo, a music-industry player who worked with Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire, established a pattern of abuse that spanned from when she was around 6 years old until she was around 22. She claims he regularly got into bed naked with her, fondled her and attempted to penetrate her with his hands. The filing adds that he would also expose his own genitals to her and rub them against her.
Zarini claims that Patricia not only allowed Ruffalo’s behavior but that both Patricia and Palombo threatened her to keep her quiet.
When Zarini was around 16, the suit claims, her grandmother asked her if Ruffalo was molesting her. When she responded in the affirmative, Palombo told her to keep it a secret. She says she ultimately confronted her mother, who also silenced her. Per the filing, Gucci and Palombo “tried to avoid, at all costs, what they perceived would be a scandal that could tarnish the Gucci name and potentially cost them millions.”
According to the Times, Zarini filed a report with the Beverly Hills Police Department outlining the abuse; the BHPD confirmed this and said the file was still open.
Patricia’s statement to the Times reads: “I am deeply sorry for the pain Joseph Ruffalo caused Alexandra. What he did to her is inexcusable and I was devastated when she disclosed everything to me at our family doctor’s office in London in September 2007. I immediately initiated divorce proceedings against Mr. Ruffalo and set about healing my family through counseling.
“I am equally devastated by the allegations against me and her grandmother, which are completely false.”
Ruffalo’s lawyer, Richard P. Crane Jr., told the Times that while his client had not been served and therefore was unfamiliar with the exact nature of the allegations, “What he has been informed of, he vehemently and categorically denies.”
“While married to Alexandra’s mother, Mr. Ruffalo and his wife were greatly concerned about the mental well-being of Alexandra and took steps to address her instability,” Crane added. “Apparently, their efforts failed.”
Crane is possibly referencing Zarini’s acknowledged cocaine and crystal meth use, which she says in the suit was encouraged by Ruffalo; she eventually went to rehab in Tucson at her mother’s urging.
Zarini told the Times that her mother and grandmother threatened her with disinheritance — she says she has been largely financially independent from her family post-rehab, and is currently a full-time mother — and that no one in the family would speak to her again if she went through with the suit.
“I don’t care. I just want to stop this … I just don’t want this to happen to anyone, like my child or any child,” she told the Times.
Page Six has reached out to Gucci for comment.
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