An 85-year-old oil mogul in Denver, Colorado has been accused of groping and harassing female employees, then allegedly firing them when they rebuffed his advances.
One accuser claims in a lawsuit that Jack Grynberg, a self-made petroleum tycoon and Holocaust survivor, bought her a new house, then demanded she repay him with sex. When she stopped having sexual contact with him, she says, he fired her.
Another woman says Grynberg pulled her into the company’s locker room and put his hand under her bra. And, according to a third accuser, Grynberg ordered her to clip his toenails while he sat in his underwear.
The allegations are part of an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit against Grynberg, and they come as Grynberg also fights his wife and adult children in court for control of his companies, the Denver Post reported.
Grynberg’s attorneys did not return messages left for comment.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Elwyn Schaefer, an attorney for the accusers, told The Daily Beast. “With what’s going on around the country these days, everyone is a lot more cognizant of how common this is.”
“Weinstein, Trump, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby,” Schaefer added of headline-grabbing sexual misconduct allegations. “No one knew how explosive this issue was until the #MeToo movement started. [There’s also] lesser known people, who still have lots of money and power. I would put Grynberg in that category.”
Denver cops arrested Grynberg for unlawful sexual contact in December of last year after one employee—now identified in the lawsuit as Roxanne Alvarez—said he grabbed her breast. Prosecutors later dropped the charge, saying they didn’t have enough evidence to prove the case to a jury.
At the time, Alvarez told police she was told to clean the oil tycoon’s office despite being hired as a clerical assistant, the Post reported. During one alleged incident, Grynberg took Alvarez to lunch and, upon returning to work, led her through the underground parking garage, down a hallway, and into a room marked with a “Men’s Locker Room” sign.
She claims she refused to go into the room, but that Grynberg pulled her in, then put his hands under her shirt and groped her, a police report said.
Grynberg has amassed his fortune in large part by suing other oil companies on claims they defrauded the federal government. According to the Post, the Jewish National Fund was scheduled to honor him on Tuesday for a $1.3 million donation that helped build an airplane exhibit in Israel. (The Jewish National Fund did not return calls by press time.)
Schaefer said he planned on Monday to file a third amended complaint in the case against Grynberg. The new complaint adds two company officials as defendants—vice president Terence Burns and company attorney Roger Jatco—and accuses them of doing little to prevent Grynberg’s alleged sexual misconduct.
“Within one week of being hired, Smith was warned by Jatko and Burns to be careful of [Grynberg] and that she should not be alone with [him],” the lawsuit claims. According to the complaint, Jatko and Burns “knew that [Grynberg] had several side affairs and slept with numerous women, some of which worked for [the company].”
Jatco declined to comment when reached by The Daily Beast, and Burns, too, declined, saying it is company policy not to comment on ongoing litigation.
According to the lawsuit, Grynberg allegedly groped or harassed the three women while they worked at Grynberg Petroleum in 2015 and 2016.
One former assistant, Candice Dee Smith, says Grynberg bought her a $600,000 home in 2015 as a Passover gift and let her now ex-husband and five kids live there, rent-free. Shortly after, Grynberg allegedly brought her to his office bathroom and advised that it was “time for you to start repaying me” for the home.
Smith had sex with Grynberg 35 times over several months, the lawsuit says. She “began inventing excuses” to avoid further contact, but Grynberg allegedly continued to touch her inappropriately and force her to touch him, the complaint says.
When Smith left in September 2016, Grynberg sued her for $45,000 in unpaid rent and tried to evict her, the Post reported. In court filings, the magnate also accused Smith of spending $35,000 on company credit cards, without his permission, for family vacations and other expenses.
According to Schaefer, Grynberg took this legal action against Smith when he learned she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Smith denied the accusations and filed a counterclaim against Grynberg alleging sexual harassment.
Schaefer says a judge tossed out Grynberg’s claim of unpaid rent, but the credit-card claim is still pending. “She is going to testify that she had his approval for every item on that credit card,” the attorney said. “He approved and signed off on them on a monthly basis.”
When asked why Grynberg would pay Smith’s expenses, Grynberg told The Daily Beast, “Because he wanted favors from her.”
“She was his personal assistant and shortly after she began work for him, he bought her, her now ex-husband, and five children a house,” Schaefer says. “About two weeks after doing that, he said, ‘Now it’s time to repay me.’”
“Why put up with this over the period of time?” Schaefer added. “The simple answer is she needed a job, she needed a home for her kids, and she was afraid.”
Two other ex-employees, Maxine Yzaguirre and her sister Roxanne Alvarez, were added as plaintiffs to Smith’s sexual harassment lawsuit.
During Yzaguirre’s five months as a receptionist, Grynberg allegedly assigned her tasks that forced her to bend over while he ogled her, the complaint says. Yzaguirre claims that she entered Grynberg’s office to find him in his underwear at least three times.
According to Schaefer, Grynberg asked Yzaguirre to clip his toenails during these encounters but that she refused to do so.
Grynberg would also thrust his pelvis at Yzaguirre and asked if she was interested in him, she claims. In one encounter, Grynberg allegedly tried to kiss her, and when she pulled away, he said, “I just gave you a bonus.”
Alvarez says she was a temporary assistant when Grynberg took her to his house to organize his library. He also had her “pick fruit” so he could stare at her body while she worked, the lawsuit says.
Another time, Grynberg brought her to the company’s subterranean locker room, forcefully kissed her and put his hands inside her bra—prompting her to run away from him, court papers allege.
“Either you go back to my house, or I no longer have work for you,” Grynberg then told Alvarez, according to the lawsuit.
When Alvarez told Burns about the locker-room encounter, he allegedly replied that Grynberg had “done things like this before,” the Post reported.
According to the lawsuit, Burns warned Alvarez to keep quiet on Grynberg’s behavior “because we’ll all lose our jobs.”
A fourth woman, who is not a plaintiff, provided an affidavit about her own encounters with Grynberg in 1976. Suzanne Greene, of Albuquerque, said she had just started at the company when Grynberg allegedly asked if she could “show a good time” to a business associate who was coming into town.
“I responded by saying, ‘I will not pimp for you,’” Greene said in her affidavit, according to the Post.
On another occasion, she says, Grynberg dropped by her home to collect office mail, then pinned her to a wall and started kissing her. Greene says that when she recoiled, Grynberg told her, “But you invited me over.”