Incubator founder accused by two of sexual assault

Vic Ahmed

Vic Ahmed speaks to the Joliet City Council in 2017. (Eric Ginnard – The Herald News)

The founder of a Centennial business incubator is being accused by two former employees of sexual harassment and assault.

Waqar “Vic” Ahmed, who started and runs Innovation Pavilion and sits on various technology boards, was sued last week by a 48-year-old mother of three for civil damages related to alleged repeated sexual assaults.

Suzy Gutierrez claims in her lawsuit that Ahmed, 55, repeatedly groped her breasts and reached his hands under her dress on planes and in hotel bars. One other former employee told BusinessDen this week she faced similar harassment.

Ahmed and his lawyer declined to comment when reached Tuesday.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Denver District Court and seeks unspecified damages, claims Gutierrez started working for Innovation Pavilion in 2012 while finishing up an MBA at Regis University. She quit Innovation Pavilion in June 2017 after alleged repeated sexual assaults left her fearing for her safety and marriage.

“He thinks women who work for him are objects that can be marginalized,” Gutierrez said in an interview with BusinessDen on Tuesday.

She said that until the alleged sexual assaults began in 2017, she loved her job planning events for the coworking incubator, which hosts networking sessions and leases space to startups from its 80,000-square-foot space at 9200 E. Mineral Ave.

Last week’s lawsuit claims that in 2017 Gutierrez started traveling to Arizona and Georgia to pitch local municipalities on hiring Innovation Pavilion to build incubators. Ahmed would travel with her.

“Ahmed used these business trips as an opportunity to try and cultivate a sexual relationship with Ms. Gutierrez,” the lawsuit claims.

Gutierrez said that on plane rides and in hotel bars – including the Hilton Denver Inverness in the Tech Center – Ahmed would order several drinks to corner booths. Then he’d grope her, the suit claims.

On a trip to Arizona, Ahmed allegedly reached under her dress. “As defendant Ahmed pressed against her, with his hands all over her body, she was unable to leave,” the lawsuit claims, adding “Ahmed’s actions were so unexpected and unwanted that Ms. Gutierrez was paralyzed by fear.”

A few days later, Gutierrez said, she told Ahmed that she has been married for more than 20 years and was not interested in a romantic relationship.

But on the next business trip, Ahmed barged into her hotel in Atlanta and insisted on watching her while she finished her hair and makeup, the lawsuit claims.

“When defendant Ahmed boldly asked Ms. Gutierrez not to wear underwear to dinner, she responded that she absolutely would not agree to that and told him to leave and get himself ready for dinner.”

The following day, Gutierrez and Ahmed went to a movie after a day of meetings, when she claims she started feeling woozy and faded in and out of consciousness. She claims she only remembers bits and pieces of that night, but woke up naked in her hotel bed, she said.

“The only thing she knew for sure was that her boss had taken physical advantage of her while she was unconscious,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed by Darold Killmer and Mari Newman from the firm Killmer, Lane & Newman.

In the interview Tuesday, Gutierrez said she asked Ahmed what happened the previous night, and he told her they kissed. She said she was disgusted and later sought medical attention and had an STD test.

“I want to make sure the business community knows what he’s capable of, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” she said.

Another former employee claims it also happened to her.

Nicole Regalado, 25, said in an interview with BusinessDen she was harassed by Ahmed. She worked for Innovation Pavilion in 2015 and 2016 after graduating college.

She said Ahmed would promise mentorship meetings but instead sought sexual favors. She said Ahmed met her at the Inverness Hotel to talk about her future at the company, then pivoted the discussion to his sexuality. Regalado said Ahmed took out his phone and showed her pictures of a naked female colleague.

“I was so uncomfortable. The bar we were in – there weren’t a lot of people. He suggested going downstairs and I thought maybe there would be more people there,” Regalado said. But Ahmed led her downstairs to an empty hallway with no security cameras and a door going outside, she said.

“He turns around and sticks his tongue down my throat.” Regalado said she tried to get away, but Ahmed grabbed her from behind, pulled her on top of him on a bench, lifting her shirt up and groping her breasts.

Regalado, who was 23 at the time, said she ran for her car and locked the door. She said Ahmed walked up and wagged his finger at her. “I remember sitting there and feeling so violated and just so gross.”

Regalado said after that incident, she refused to enter a room alone with Ahmed. But she claims he kept harassing her, at one point sending her text messages stating that he wanted to see her and another co-worker perform sexually for him.

“I would never reply or answer, and I pretended they didn’t happen,” Regalado said. “I was just so young and naïve, looking back now.”

BusinessDen reporter Kate Tracy contributed to this report.

Vic Ahmed

Vic Ahmed

Vic Ahmed speaks to the Joliet City Council in 2017. (Eric Ginnard – The Herald News)

The founder of a Centennial business incubator is being accused by former employees of repeated sexual harassment.

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13 Comments

Martha

As a female in the business world, I am so disturbed that this man of obvious power thinks he is able to do this to his female employees continuously. With over 30+ years experience working my way up the ladder in business, I have personally experienced many instances of sexual harassment and discrimination trying to “get ahead” in a man’s world, but it is especially disheartening to know it still goes on today. We’ve made progress as women for sure, but sick individuals like “Vic” Ahmed set us back. This should equally be upsetting to men who have wives, daughters, and female relatives in the business arena. And, more importantly, to men who are powerful business owners who genuinely respect women in the workforce. I praise these brave women who are standing up this narcissist! I hope the outcome to this lawsuit sends the loud and clear message that both men and women will not tolerate this type of behavior.

Tami

These are still “alleged” incidents and allegations in the filing have not been answered. You should balance your story by interviewing just a few of the MANY MANY women who were mentored and connected by Vic. He has a long history of lending a helping hand to entrepreneurs and young professionals, volunteering time and resources to the start up community and speaking on behalf of the “underserved”.
Vic has been in the business community a very long time and surrounds himself with supporters and like minded individuals. I’ve seen many WOMEN AND MEN alike literally trip over themselves to get time with him …let alone his endorsements.

At least follow the Post’s lead and feature quotes and interviews about the character of the accused person; given his contributions to the community at large.

Tami

I agree that men need to STOP THIS BEHAVIOR AND CHEERS TO BRAVE WOMEN WHO REPORT. I find it suspect that the first official report comes in the form of a lawsuit.

The accused is simply names in the suit and these are thus far unreported allegations. I urge readers to be fair to the accused and know the lawsuit is solely based upon one sided testimony. More to come.

Kim

Tami, your statements above further perpetuate the rape culture that plagues our society. He could be the most charismatic person in the world, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of doing awful things. The 9News story below says that “Gutierrez and her attorney said that they made multiple attempts to work with Innovation Pavilions and Ahmed to find a solution out of court, but he declined.” It’s not like she just filed this lawsuit out of nowhere. It sounds like the lawsuit was a long time coming and the last case scenario. Vic could have cooperated, settled outside of court, and kept this story out of the media. There are now THREE former female employees coming forward. Do you know how difficult it must be for these women to go up against a man so highly connected in the Denver community? I believe them and I stand in solidarity with these women.

https://www.9news.com/article/news/local/investigations/founder-of-denver-tech-company-accused-of-sexual-assault-by-former-employees/73-560068978

Tami

Kim, How am I perpetuating a rape culture? How insulting for you to believe that I condone rape?! Are you deep in your own tunnel vision that you can’t read a a response encouraging objectivity?

I actually do know these people involved, first hand, and I’m saying…”whoa this sounds horrible; but there’s a process and let’s get the facts, evidence, the response…etc”.

Just because Ahmed had a “chance to settle” and didn’t can very well mean that there was little merit. 3 former employees were interviewed, and are witnesses. Their testimony and evidence has not been explored; no one has even been deposed yet. So far, this lawsuit is a statement from the plaintiff.

Calm down Kim, deep breaths and try to get back to rational thoughts. Rape, assault and sexual harassment are all crimes that I do not support. “I stand in solidarity for all victims”. We agree. We disagree on who the victims may be here.

Martha

Yes, more to come! Sounds like truth and justice will prevail for these young women. Charisma and charm do not equal “good, upstanding citizen” in my book. Many charismatic and charming men have committed horrendous crimes against women. He’s obvious a “serial predator” who preys in beautiful, vulnerable, smart and highly educated women. Take a look at them, he obviously prefers beautiful women; “groom them and schmooze them”….,,hmmmmm, I’m willing to bet there will be more women to come forward. I can’t imagine that a woman with three children would come forward with false accusations. She has her family to consider. This must take a lot of courage to do this as she (Ms Gutierrez) has to consider all aspects of her future, children, career, etc. I doubt someone of her stature and intelligence would be walk into this lawsuit lightly. She obviously has come to the end of herself. God bless this beautiful woman for standing up to a powerful man who “holds her future career in is hands.”

D in Denver

This guy is a predator, no different than Cosby or Weinstein. He uses his power and position to take advantage of others. But the days of buying silence with money and NDA agreements are over, and the difference today is that some are now able to feel they can speak up. For me – once proven guilty in court, I will be happy to know this predator might become prey in Canyon City.

Former Employee

As a former employee of 2+ years, I have a more intimate perspective of what happened behind the scenes. This man is a fraud, a liar, and a predator. Plain and simple. He’s only sorry because he finally got caught. Kim’s right, people like this abuse their power to make you question his ability to commit sexually assault. Bravo Mrs. Gutierrez, for fighting back.

Erica

LOL These commenters are both “Judge and Jury”

So happy there is a process in place for all parties to present facts and evidence while media and blog commenters can keep “being right” in the comfort of their studio and personal space..

Love the “Former Employee” commenter. Poor performance evaluations and termination often evokes disdain from “Former Employees”.

Erica

Her husband is an Attorney at a HOLLAND and Hart (employment/labor).

He’s a partner. So your assumption about her is off base.

Mr. Gutierrez found out, he’s mad, he’s litigious. Mrs. says “he made me do it”.

Wonder how hubby felt about the “I love you” texts wifey sent her boss over and over and over…

Donovan

Listen to the rhetoric and disdain of “Erica’s” comment. You can feel her fuming as she over excessively “quotes” everything. You’re obviously emotionally invested in this man in one way or another, listen to yourself haha. My guess, someone close in his entourage 🙂

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