Lawsuit accuses Wellington polo icon John Gobin of raping teenage girl, preying on others

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WELLINGTON — Within the confines of one of the nation's largest polo schools, ex-employees say director and coach John Gobin sexually harassed the teenage girls pulled into his orbit with hopes of advancing their own careers.

In a lawsuit filed last month, a 19-year-old woman said Gobin raped her more than 35 times at his polo properties in Virginia between 2021 and 2023. The woman, who was 16 when Gobin hired her to tend horses at his school, said he often pressured his underage employees to drink alcohol, made demeaning comments about their bodies and threatened to tarnish their reputations if they spoke out against him.

Gobin has denied the allegations and lobbed a handful of his own in return. In a countersuit filed last month, the part-time Wellington resident said the woman falsely accused him at the behest of a jilted ex-business partner.

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His lawsuit is more than double the length of the teen's and does not account for why five other employees also described a pattern of sexual misconduct in anonymous interviews with The Washington Post last month.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Gobin's response was brief: "They're trying to ruin my life."

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Gobin rose to fame as a polo player in the 1990s. Today, his properties in Wellington, South Carolina and Virginia make up one of the largest polo operations in the country. His ex-employee, identified in her lawsuit only as Jane Doe, said the opportunity to work alongside him at Twilight Polo Club excited her.

She began tending horses on the roughly 20-acre estate in the summer of 2021. Doe said Gobin was generous, supplementing her $80-a-day salary with complimentary polo lessons, tournament opportunities and free boarding for her horses.

Conversely, she said he remarked on her body and called her and the three other teenage girls she worked with "sluts." Gobin sometimes drove the teen home after work, during which time Doe said he would touch her legs, try to kiss her and talk about having a threesome with her and another 16-year-old employee.

Another woman told The Washington Post that Gobin forcibly kissed her and touched her crotch over her clothes when she was underage. Four others said he made lewd comments and unwanted advances toward them. Several of the women said they feared repercussions in the polo world for speaking out against Gobin.

"This is fairly typical grooming behavior," said Ari Wilkenfeld, Doe's Washington, D.C.-based attorney. "He was able to gain the trust of these young girls and get them into compromising positions with both threats and inducements. It’s not at all atypical."

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Doe said that on two occasions in July 2021, Gobin gave her and another 16-year-old employee alcohol after their shifts at Twilight Polo Club had ended. Amid promises to give them a leg up in polo competitions, she said Gobin led the girls to a grassy area near a pavilion, laid down a towel and had sex with each of the teens in succession.

In the two years that followed, Doe said she and Gobin had many more sexual encounters. Most, she said, were fueled by alcohol and followed by gifts of cash or polo perks, as well as instructions from Gobin to take a shower and delete their texts to one another.

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What Doe's attorney called grooming behavior, Gobin’s lawyer deemed a lie. In his countersuit, Gobin accused Doe and his ex-business partner Whitney Ross of conspiring to force him out of the polo business and take his property for themselves.

"Mr. Gobin’s claims against Ms. Ross are unfounded and appear to have been brought for the sole purpose of harassment and intimidation," Ross' attorney, Matthew Sorensen of Virginia, said Wednesday. "Ms. Ross intends to defend this matter vigorously."

Ross began working for Gobin as a horse groomer in 2012 and quickly rose through the ranks of his Twilight Polo Club. She became his managing partner over the course of a decade and was showcased alongside him in magazines about their time wintering in Wellington.

Gobin said that in 2023, their relationship — which Gobin said was romantic as well as professional — ended badly. His lawsuit calls her behavior in the time that followed "increasingly unhinged."

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He accused Ross of stealing passwords to the company's online accounts and demanding money from Gobin in exchange for their return. The lawsuit does not say whether Gobin reported the alleged extortion attempts to police. When asked, his Virginia-based attorney August McCarthy did not respond.

Gobin further accused Ross of convincing an organization to terminate its long-term contract with him, subsequently acquiring it for herself. Simultaneously, Gobin said Ross hatched a plan with Doe to accuse Gobin of rape.

His lawsuit doesn't account for why different ex-employees told The Washington Post that Gobin made lewd comments and unwanted advances toward them. Nor does it explain why the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office began investigating allegations that Gobin had sexual contact with underage girls in 2022 — one year before his falling out with Ross.

Doe's attorney said the criminal investigation remains active, though no charges have been filed against Gobin. The Palm Beach County-based U.S. Polo Association confirmed Tuesday that it is also investigating the allegations but will not convene to consider the charges against him until the litigation is resolved.

Gobin is seeking $15 million in damages — three times the amount Doe asked for in her own lawsuit against him. In a response Thursday, Wilkenfeld called Gobin's countersuit a "work of fiction."

"The only thing (Doe) hopes to gain in all this is peace of mind knowing that she has done her part to prevent other children from being victimized as she was," Wilkenfeld said. "This case is about bringing a sexual predator to justice. Not some imagined business dispute.”

Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: South Florida polo icon John Gobin accused of rape, sexual harassment