Byline: Carol Emert

WASHINGTON — Two Maryland shoppers have filed a $218 million lawsuit alleging that security guards in a Victoria’s Secret mall store in Towson, Md., strip-searched them after wrongly accusing one of them of shoplifting a pair of panties.
The Limited, parent company of Victoria’s Secret, would not comment on the matter, other than to release a statement that said: “It is a fundamental value of Victoria’s Secret to treat all of its customers and its associates with respect.” The company is cooperating fully with authorities, it said.
The plaintiffs, Ruth Kay Cobb and Nathaniel Edward Masterson, have charged Victoria’s Secret and the Towson Town Center Mall with false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence in its training and supervision of the security guards involved. The suit was filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court last Thursday.
A statement from the Towson mall said, “There appears to be a gross mischaracterization of the facts. Our corporate office will not allow me to comment further on this incident as it is pending litigation.”
Also named as defendants were the three security guards who allegedly conducted the searches. Two of the guards were off-duty county policemen who were moonlighting; the third, a female, is not a police officer, according to the complaint.
Only Masterson was accused of shoplifting by a Victoria’s Secret employee, but Cobb was searched as well, the complaint said. Both were strip-searched in the store dressing rooms, and a body cavity search was conducted on Cobb by the female security guard, it said.
Although a store employee refused to search Cobb as initially requested by the two off-duty police officers, “Victoria’s Secret knowingly and willfully allowed their premises to be used to conduct the strip and body cavity search,” the complaint said.
The incident is alleged to have happened Dec. 8. The complaint says the two security guards followed Cobb and Masterson after Cobb had made a purchase at Victoria’s Secret. The guards forced the pair to return to the store and undergo searches in the dressing rooms. No stolen merchandise was found, it said.

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