Nick Caporella, the billionaire CEO of the company that owns LaCroix sparkling water, has been sued by two male pilots for unwanted touching on dozens of occasions.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that, according to two lawsuits, Caporella, 82, the CEO of the National Beverage Corp., repeatedly groped, rubbed and grabbed the two plaintiffs on more than 30 trips from 2014 to 2016. The paper said he often pilots the corporate jet alongside employed pilots.
The first lawsuit was filed against Caporella and National Beverage in December 2016 and was settled in January for an undisclosed amount, according to CNN Money. The second lawsuit was filed against Caporella, National Beverage and Broad River Aviation Inc., the company that operates plane use for National Beverage’s business trips, in January 2017 and is pending.
Caporella and National Beverage denied all allegations, adding in court documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal that both pilots left their positions because of poor performance.
“Any contact would be the equivalent of an innocuous pat on the back or handshake after a completed flight,” the company wrote in a statement in response to both suits.
One pilot, Terence Huenefeld, alleged in the 2016 suit that Caporella engaged in “repeated unjustified, unwarranted and uninvited grabbing, rubbing and groping of Terry’s leg in a sexual manner, reaching up towards Terry’s sexual organs.”
When Huenefeld filed a formal complaint with his superiors, he said, they told him to simply “put up with it,” according to CNN Money.
The other pilot, Vincent Citrullo, said Caporella often touched him without his consent, such as grabbing Citrullo under his thigh and moving his hand toward his genitals.
Citrullo told The Wall Street Journal that the touching “was definitely inappropriate.”
Lee Schillinger, the attorney for both pilots, told The Wall Street Journal that Caporella paid his crew very well and used that to wield power over them.
“He reaches over and grabs his co-pilot,” Schillinger said. “He’s trying to prove that he’s in control.”