A third person has come forward accusing former Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of underage sexual activity.
The anonymous Florida accuser said in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court Tuesday that he met Clash on a gay phone chat line in 2000, back when he was 16 years old. At the time the teen was staying with friends and family in New Jersey after having traveled to the area to pursue modeling opportunities, the suit says.
The man, now 29, claims in the lawsuit that Clash invited him to come to his apartment in Manhattan, where he supplied him with alcohol and “groomed him.”
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The suit says he and Clash engaged in “sexual contact” in Clash’s apartment, which was filled with “numerous Elmo dolls” and photographs of Elmo with "famous people like Beyonce and Tyra Banks."
The accuser eventually moved to New York after graduating high school and became involved in a sexual relationship with Clash after turning 18, the suit says. He seeks at least $75,000.
Jeff Herman, who represents two of the three Clash accusers, told NBC 6 South Florida that after his latest client saw the other two men coming forward, he felt he had a duty to share his story as well. Herman said the latest accuser began writing a book in 2009 about his relationship with Clash, which he says supports his accusations against the puppeteer.
"In one of the chapters he details some of the specific acts that took place when he was 16," Herman said. "He refers to him as the tickler in the book."
A spokesman for Clash said in a statement to NBC News that the lawsuit “has no merit.”
Clash resigned from “Sesame Street” last week after 28 years following earlier underage sex claims.
Sesame Workshop said in a statement Tuesday that, while it was aware of the first accusation made against Clash by a man who later recanted his claims, it only learned of other claims via the press.
"In June, we received one allegation from one accuser. Based on our own internal investigation, the use of outside investigative firms, and Kevin's vehement denial, we found no evidence of an underage relationship," the statement said. "We did not know about subsequent accusations until we read about them in the press. We trust the judicial process to reach the ultimate conclusions about the truth or falsity of these allegations."
In a separate, $5 million lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, Cecil Singleton claimed Clash engaged in sexual encounters when he was 15 years old.
Clash, 52, said in a statement that, "personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work Sesame Street is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately."
Clash was the third person to have played Elmo on "Sesame Street" and has been widely credited for Elmo's surge in popularity over the years. While best known for playing the red monster, Clash also performed as Hoots the Owl and Baby Natasha on the long running children's show. He had served as the show's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain, and had also won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.
Clash's film credits include “Labyrinth” and the first two “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” films. He penned an autobiography in 2006 titled "My Life as a Furry Red Monster, What Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud" and was also the subject of the 2011 documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”