A Texas real estate tycoon is accused of sexually assaulting one of his employees, then lodging a $100 million defamation suit against the 21-year-old single mom for informing others—beginning with the police—about the alleged attack.
Jerome Mansour Karam, a personal injury lawyer by trade, calls himself “a dominating presence in Galveston County real estate, having purchased and redeveloped over one million square feet of real estate in the past five years alone.” His firm, JMK5 Holdings, LLC, is named for his five children, who all share their father’s initials, J.M.K., and bills itself as an expert in “redeveloping large, floundering big-box properties, turning them into a [sic] thriving, multi-use commercial sites.” The license plate on Karam’s Rolls-Royce reportedly reads “Mufasa 5,” for his Lion King-inspired nickname.
In March, La Marque, Texas, Mayor Keith Bell said, “Our community identifies with Mr. Karam, who comes from a small town in Louisiana and has a no-nonsense work ethic. He never gave up on his dreams, and he continues to make a difference by helping others in business and creating jobs. Jerome is a man of his word and an example to our youth and our community.”
But the lawyers representing Karam’s accuser tell a very different story.
“In short: Karam sexually assaulted our client,” attorney Andrew Dao told The Daily Beast, alleging that Karam “has a history” of such misconduct. “Our client filed a police report and spoke out about it. Karam then initiated a lawsuit and sued… in an attempt to silence her. After he filed this lawsuit, one of his former HR managers reached out to our client, to essentially say that this misconduct by Karam has gone on for far too long, and that his company has been sweeping it under the rug.”
Over the past several months, Karam, 59, has touted, among other things, his purchase of 14 “historic French Christian masterpieces… from renowned author Anne Rice,” as well as his backing of the “largest entertainment and business park in the Southwest,” the largest medical marijuana growing operation in the state of Oklahoma, and “the world’s largest World Gym,” a 100,000-square-foot workout facility in a megamall that he also owns.
That gym is where Ashlyn Moore claims Karam attacked her earlier this year, according to a countersuit filed June 2 in Galveston County District Court.
“The trauma this man has put me and so many others through shouldn’t go unanswered,” Moore told The Daily Beast in a statement provided by Dao and co-counsel Cordt Akers. “I never wanted to be in court. I only wanted the truth to be known so that this never happens to anyone else.”
Karam told The Daily Beast that he would provide a statement on Tuesday afternoon regarding Moore’s allegations. He later texted a screenshot of a TikTok video posted by Moore, calling her a “pathological liar.”
Moore, who works as a server at The Jungle, a theme “bar and adult adventure” also owned by Karam, was exercising at the World Gym on Jan. 31 when Karam approached her, the countersuit states.
“Though she was not on duty, she knew she was dealing with the person who was her ultimate boss and employer,” the filing continues. “Karam indicated he wanted to show Moore the massage therapy offices at the gym. Karam walked Moore to a closed-door hallway of mostly empty offices, far away and out of earshot from any other patron or employee of the gym.”
There, Karam “began making inappropriate comments to Moore,” the countersuit contends, noting that Karam briefly left the room then came back and “led Moore to the cryo-chamber, instructing her to get into it.”
Karam became upset when Moore refused to get naked, and positioned himself in front of the cryo-chamber door, blocking her exit, the lawsuit alleges. He then sexually assaulted Moore, who was “gripped with fear,” the filing states.
A stunned Moore left the gym and burst into tears, calling her mother and a close friend immediately to tell them what had happened, according to the countersuit.
“Karam and JMK5 Holdings, LLC did not ensure sufficient surveillance cameras were in place and operational at the gym and his other businesses,” it states. “It is not a mystery as to why.”
That evening, after processing the day’s events, Moore informed her boyfriend and father about the alleged attack. The next morning, Moore’s lawyers say she went to the Texas City Police Department to file charges against Karam.
She sat for a verbal interview with police, but was never provided with a written record of her complaint, Dao told The Daily Beast. He said Moore heard back from the police less than a week later—and the department said it wouldn’t be pursuing the case.
“Karam was one of the county’s most prominent citizens, and the Texas City Police Department was now housing a new substation in Karam’s development—the Mainland City Center,” the suit states. “Knowing that Karam was out there and could be doing the same to other women, Moore spoke out on social media with a message in a group chat of young women who worked for Karam, warning them to never be alone in his presence. She felt the need to do so as a warning [to] others.” (Chief Joe Stanton of the Texas City PD did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Tuesday. A department spokesman, Lorenzo Manuel de la Garza, followed up by email, saying, “All information pertaining to this case should be sought after through an open records request.”)
So Moore took to social media, posting her account of what she said happened at the World Gym. On Feb. 9, Karam sued Moore for $100 million.
“He asked for a judge to issue an order preventing her from making statements about this on social media—literally tried to sue her into silence,” Akers told The Daily Beast.
In his lawsuit, Karam said Moore “recently began a campaign of malicious defamation with the stated intention of injuring my personal and business reputation,” and that she “published false statements on social media, which she knew were false or which she made with reckless disregard for their truth.”
Among the specific posts by Moore with which Karam took issue was one claiming she was “not his first victim,” his suit states, insisting that he never sexually assaulted Moore or anyone else. In his suit, Karam asked the court to order Moore to delete her posts immediately.
“I operate businesses which cannot be associated with a person who perpetrates such heinous acts,” it says. “I am a family man and community member, and such lies will cause severe harm to my reputation if allowed to persist. Defendant’s statements in her videos make clear she intends to continue her campaign of lies. She must be stopped or my reputation will be destroyed based on nothing but a pack of lies.”
Moore’s countersuit alleges that many of those in charge of running Karam’s businesses were well aware of his “predatory behavior.” However, most never said anything because they were afraid of incurring Karam’s wrath, it claims.
“Numerous complaints of Karam’s misconduct failed to lead to any disciplinary actions or corrective actions,” the suit states. “His managers and/or human resources department were forced to turn a blind eye to each claim. One of those human resources managers quit within two weeks of Karam’s assault of Moore. The human resources manager contacted Moore, indicating that the guilt was killing her, as what Moore described had occurred to ‘many other women before you.’”
To this, Akers told The Daily Beast, “That just doesn’t happen unless it’s really reached a boiling point.”
In response to Moore’s allegations, Karam has claimed that Moore fabricated her story, that it “cannot possibly be true,” and that her speaking out has “somehow defamed him,” her filing states. “The reality is, Karam has engaged in numerous, unacceptable actions with numerous individuals. This stops now.”
In a section of the filing under the heading “A Troubled History,” past complaints against Karam are spelled out in significant detail.
In June 2020, an unnamed World Gym employee contacted the HR department to lodge a grievance against Karam. The woman, identified in Moore’s countersuit simply as “Jane Doe,” said that Karam had been contacting her repeatedly, making offensive comments and had touched her inappropriately. When HR asked the gym manager about the accusations, she said this sort of behavior was “not unusual” for Karam, and that she was “unsurprised,” the countersuit states.
Less than a year later, another one of Karam’s employees went to HR with a complaint that Karam had forced himself on her, including “forcing her to engage in oral sex,” according to Moore’s filing.
“Unsurprisingly, no discipline or corrective actions were taken,” it adds.
The list goes on. In one past allegation laid out in the countersuit, a tenant of Karam’s complained to company officials that he “was trying to send her pictures of his private parts.” In another, Karam allegedly hired a receptionist, then “began messaging her inappropriately, asking her to send pictures of herself, and offered to send money to her bank account.” One of Karam’s employees claimed he would make her stand up and “twirl” for him when she was dressed nicely.
According to Moore’s countersuit, Karam regularly carried on inappropriate relationships with his staff, buying one woman a car and paying for her breast augmentation procedure, but lashing out when things didn’t go his way. When one of Karam’s property managers declined an invitation to sit in his lap, the filing says Karam chastised her in front of her colleagues and didn’t speak to her again for nearly two years. Another employee fired for “stealing” had previously been in a “personal relationship with Karam that ended,” according to the documents.
“The theme is similar,” the countersuit states. “Karam knows that the women he preys on are afraid of retribution, termination, or damage to their reputations.”
After Moore went public with her claims, Karam transferred ownership of The Jungle to a manager there named “Jewel,” according to Moore’s countersuit.
“This was likely an attempt, with Jewel’s assistance, to attempt to distance himself from, and conceal any association with, ‘The Jungle,’” it says. “It has been discovered that Karam and Jewel would have consensual sex on the premises.”
Moore is seeking a jury trial and damages of at least $1 million for, variously, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, medical expenses, and loss of earning capacity.
She hopes that by speaking out, others will come forward with allegations of their own, her lawyers said.
“Jerome Karam has been in a position of unwavering power for years. It takes tremendous courage for someone to stand up to a person of that stature,” they told The Daily Beast. “We’re proud to represent our client and help her in standing up for herself and others.”
The Daily Beast