In their letter Thursday, the athletes cited an October Washington Post article in which Maria Farmer said she holds the Wexners responsible for her alleged assault by Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell, as well as a lawsuit Farmer filed. The assault allegedly occurred on property Farmer says was monitored by Abigail Wexner and the Wexner security team.
Les Wexner, the founder and chief executive of L Brands, the parent company of the Limited and Victoria’s Secret, was also on the university’s board of trustees during some of the years Strauss was working there.
Both Wexners serve on the board of Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, named for the couple after they contributed $100 million. Abigail Wexner is vice chair of Ohio State’s board of trustees.
“The allegations raised by Ms. Farmer are terrifying and bear directly on our own fight for justice,” the former athletes wrote in the three-page letter to Ohio Attorney General David Yost and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David M. DeVillers.
One of the letter’s signatories, Dunyasha Yetts, said in an interview that the Farmer allegations relate to the athletes’ claims against Strauss because both were dismissed for so long.
“Whether it is the Wexners or the [Ohio State] coaches, here we go again, someone in power turning a blind eye,” Yetts said. “The people who are not in the upper echelons of wealth, the powerful always think they are making things up.”
Through spokespeople, the Wexners have said they cut ties with Epstein years ago and don’t know Farmer.
Abigail Wexner was appointed as a trustee of Ohio State by former Ohio governor John Kasich. She serves on a variety of committees on the board, including Academic Affairs, Student Life and Research, Advancement, and Quality and Professional Affairs.
Ben Johnson, a spokesman for Ohio State University, declined to comment on the athletes’ letter.
It isn’t clear what form an investigation would take, as experts say it may be difficult to charge anyone associated with Farmer’s alleged assault under state law because of statutes of limitations.
Yost’s office issued a statement Thursday saying that it does not hold primary jurisdiction.
“This office takes all allegations of sexual assault seriously,” said attorney general spokeswoman Holly M. Hollingsworth. “In Ohio, primary criminal jurisdiction rests with local prosecutors and police agencies – the attorney general only has authority over such matters when invited in by local authorities.”
She said the attorney general was still reviewing the letter and would “determine an appropriate course of action.”
A spokeswoman for DeVillers declined to comment, saying the office as a policy cannot discuss any potential investigations.
In her interview with The Post, Farmer said that while staying in Epstein’s home in New Albany, Ohio, during the summer of 1996, she was discouraged by Wexner’s security staff from going outside without getting permission from Abigail Wexner, whom she says she spoke to by phone multiple times that summer. (She says she never met Abigail Wexner in person.) Wexner provided Epstein with the home after hiring him as a close financial adviser.
“Where I stayed that summer, in that house and working in that garage, all of it was within view of the Wexner house,” Farmer said in the interview.
She said she called the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, but it did not come to her aid or open an investigation. The sheriff’s office said it has no record of Farmer’s 1996 call.
Wexner has said he cut ties with Epstein more than a decade ago, saying that “everyone has to feel enormous regret for the advantage that was taken of so many young women.”
In response to Farmer’s allegations, Wexner spokesman Thomas Davies issued a statement to The Post saying that neither the 82-year-old Leslie Wexner nor Abigail Wexner knew who Farmer was before she made her allegations and that the Epstein house “was not on land owned by the Wexners, and was nearly one half mile away from the Wexner home.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Wexner have condemned Jeffrey Epstein’s abhorrent behavior in the strongest possible terms and severed all ties with him in 2007,” Davies said in the statement.
“We don’t know what Epstein told Ms. Farmer about the Wexners. And while we don’t know with whom Ms. Farmer may have spoken, who may have claimed to be Mrs. Wexner, it was not Mrs. Wexner. Before the recent news coverage of Ms. Farmer, Mr. and Mrs. Wexner had no knowledge of her, never met her, never spoke with her, and never spoke with Mr. Epstein or anyone else about her.”
Wexner is the only known client of Epstein, a financier who, authorities said, killed himself in a New York City jail this summer.
Earlier this year, when evidence emerged of Epstein’s alleged misconduct, Wexner issued a statement accusing Epstein of having “misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family.” It was the first time he had made such accusations public. Epstein was never charged with any crime related to the alleged theft.
Wexner remains atop his $5 billion company, the wealthiest man in Ohio, an employer of about 88,000 people worldwide and a prominent philanthropist and business leader in the Columbus area.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005. A report for the university by the law firm Perkins Coie this year identified nearly 1,430 instances of fondling and 47 rapes by Strauss. More than 250 men have joined at least a dozen lawsuits related to the abuse.
In their letter, the five athletes — Yetts, William Knight, Eric Smith, Mike Rodriguez and Mark Coleman — ask for “a thorough investigation.”
“Only by holding accountable those who promote sexual assault can we expiate the sins of the past and present, allowing all victims of Dr. Strauss to move forward in a healthy and productive manner.”