The five rape and abuse allegations against Sean Combs

This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security searched two of the homes of the artist known as Puff Daddy or Diddy, who faces a sex trafficking investigation

Sean Combs
Sean Combs at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards in Newark, New Jersey, where he was honored as a global icon.Noam Galai (Getty Images)
María Porcel

In April 2023, a year ago, Sean Combs held a party at his home in Holmby Hills, one of the most exclusive areas of Los Angeles, between Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, to present his latest album, The Love Album: Off the Grid, which was later nominated for a Grammy. That same 1,600-square-meter mansion where he held the party — and which he bought a decade ago for $40 million — was turned upside down last Monday as federal agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security searched the property. On the other side of the country, in Miami, police officers searched another one of his houses. Although authorities have not made it public, both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times say that sources in the investigation have confirmed that the musician (known as Puff Daddy or Diddy) is facing a sex trafficking investigation involving minors. For the moment, however, he has not been charged.

The 54-year-old musician and entrepreneur has been accused by four women and one man of sexual abuse, harassment, rape, and physical and verbal violence to varying degrees. Examples and comments about his aggressive attitude have multiplied in the industry, as have the voices of women who have claimed that his behavior has been abusive and hostile for decades. In the last 12 months, Combs has gone from being an entrepreneur with an annual income of around $100 million, according to Forbes, named an MTV Global Music Icon last September, to one of the most despised men on the U.S. artistic and social scene.

Although the artist has a long history of accusations — especially for being violent — that span decades, a civil lawsuit filed last November by singer and model Casandra Ventura, known as Cassie, his on-and-off girlfriend for 13 years (between 2005 and 2018), was the catalyst in the current sprawling investigation. In the lawsuit, Cassie alleged that Combs had systematically raped and abused her during all the years they were together. She also alleged that Combs beat her in fits of “uncontrollable rage,” leaving her bruised and bloodied “several times a year,” and exerted a “tight hold over her life.”

In 2016, according to the lawsuit, Cassie tried to flee a hotel in California and, upon noticing, he followed her down the hallway throwing glass vases at her and then bought the hotel security camera footage for $50,000. In addition, he forced her to take drugs such as ecstasy and ketamine, as well as have sex with prostitutes while he watched them and masturbated, recording them. All of this occurred both in hotels and in their homes, which are spread across the country; thus, Cassie’s lawsuit cited the federal sex trafficking statute, which is the focus of the ongoing investigation.

“Every time she hid, Mr. Combs’s vast network of corporations and affiliated entities found her, and those who worked for Mr. Combs’s companies implored her to return to him,” the lawsuit states. “No one dared to speak up against their frightening and ferocious boss.” Cassie lived in a state of terror, according to the suit: “Ms. Ventura felt that saying ‘no’ to Mr. Combs would cost her something — her family, her friends, her career, or even her life.” Combs denied everything. The day after the lawsuit was filed, it was learned that the two had reached an out-of-court settlement.

Casandra Ventura and Sean Combs at the Metropolitan Museum Gala in New York held on May 7, 2018.
Casandra Ventura and Sean Combs at the Metropolitan Museum Gala in New York held on May 7, 2018.John Shearer (Getty Images)

But Cassie opened the floodgates for what followed. Just days after her lawsuit, another woman, Joi Dickerson-Neal, accused Combs of raping her in 1991, when she was a 19-year-old student, and of having recorded a video of the rape. A third woman, Liza Gardner, claimed that he and another singer, Aaron Hall, sexually abused her and a friend in 1990. In early December, an anonymous woman accused him (providing images and videos) of gang-raping her in 2003, when she was 17 years old. In the 14-page lawsuit, she recounts a harrowing story. One night she met Combs and Harve Pierre, a former longtime president of Combs’ record label, at a bar in Detroit, Michigan. They convinced her to travel with them on a private jet to New York City, but before leaving the bar, Pierre forced her to smoke crack cocaine and abused her in a bathroom, forcing her to perform oral sex on him. Once in New York, Combs (34), Pierre and a third man plied her with “copious amounts of drugs and alcohol” and took turns raping her in a bathroom at the studio after she was too inebriated to consent, according to the suit. The next morning, they sent her back to Michigan on a plane.

This allegation is the most series of all since it involves a minor and, if proved, would constitute sex trafficking, since the minor was taken from one state to another for nonconsensual sexual acts.

Then, in February, producer Rodney Jones Jr. — who worked on Combs’ latest album — alleged in another lawsuit he was sexually harassed by Combs, pressured to engage in sexual acts, forced to procure sex workers for Combs and witnessed Combs giving drinks laced with drugs to people at parties. “Mr. Combs consistently made it clear that he has immense power in the music industry and with law enforcement,” Jones’ lawsuit says. This Monday, Jones amended his lawsuit and actor Cuba Gooding Jr, who has already been accused several times of sexual harassment.

Prosecutors in the Southern District of Manhattan have been investigating all of these allegations for months, interviewing witnesses and tying up loose ends, according to The New York Times.

Una foto de 2003 que la demandante anónima de Sean Combs presentó en su demanda contra el músico en diciembre de 2023, en la que aparece ella, entonces de 17 años y siendo menor de edad, sobre el regazo del artista.
A 2003 photo that the anonymous woman who alleged that she was gang-raped by Sean Combs filed in her lawsuit against the musician in December 2023. In the image, she is seen sitting on Combs' lap.

For the moment, according to tabloid reports, Combs was spotted in Miami. On Monday, his plane was detained as he was about to leave Florida to go to the Bahamas with his family. Agents stopped it before takeoff and seized several electronic devices. The authorities let Combs go but took his passport. Only one man, Brendan Paul, 25, was arrested at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport at the same time Combs was stopped at the airport. He is accused of being a drug runner for Combs and was charged with possession of cocaine and other substances and was released on bail shortly after his arrest. In Los Angeles, two of Combs’ seven children were detained during the search of his California home and were also released shortly thereafter.

The musician’s abusive behavior goes back a long way. One of the founders of his record label Bad Boy Entertainment, Kirk Burrowes, whom he fired in 1997, recently told the Los Angeles Times that 25 years ago Combs had a “propensity for violence”: “It just wasn’t as well known. It’s almost like it was part of his operating manual. He was so traumatizing to women.” Burrowes sued him in 2003, alleging that in 1996 he threatened him with a baseball bat in a business dispute. In 1994, also according to Burrowes and as corroborated by another witness, Combs abused a woman in the offices of Bad Boy Records and broke a glass table during the altercation. In 1999 the musician was arrested for confronting a rival record company executive, and he himself pleaded guilty to harassing him. In addition, later that year, he was charged with weapons possession after a gun was found in his car following a shooting at a New York club. He and his then girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, were arrested. In 2015, he was arrested again for assaulting the trainer of one of his sons at a sports complex. In 2017, one of his private cooks sued him for forcing her to work for 16 hours a day, as well as for forcing her to serve him food after he had sex with women and when he was still naked; when she complained about it, he fired her. They reached an out-of-court settlement, the details of which are not known.

Sean 'Diddy' Combs raid
Los Angeles police officers block several streets in the Holmby Hills neighborhood during a search of Sean Combs' home on March 25, 2024.CAROLINE BREHMAN (EFE)

Several legal experts say that given the severity of the accusations he faces — all of which he has denied —, the charges could also be very serious. His lawyer, Aaron Dyer, claims that the searches of his homes were an “excessive show of force and hostility,” going so far as to describe it all as a “witch hunt.”

The artist — one of the musicians who popularized hip hop as a genre and launched to stardom musicians like The Notorious B.I.G, Machine Gun Kelly, Janelle Monáe and recent Super Bowl star Usher — is now seeing how musicians like Ke$ha have erased his name from the lyrics of their songs. Rapper 50 Cent, one of his eternal enemies in the music scene, is already preparing a documentary about Combs and the allegations against him.

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