Months-Long Trial Over Bait-and-Switch Porn Scheme Kicks Off

Posted August 20th, 2019.

As It Appeared On
Courthouse News

BIANCA BRUNO

SAN DIEGO (CN) – Opening statements kicked off in a fraud trial Tuesday where 22 women claim they were coerced into shooting pornography for an alleged “private collection” that was then distributed publicly on websites like PornHub.

The women, identified in court documents as Jane Does 1-22, sued San Diego-based porn website GirlsDoPorn, its owner Michael Pratt, his business associate Matthew Wolfe and actor and recruiter Andre Garcia, in 2016 for fraudulently inducing the women to appear in porn videos that have been viewed online over 1 billion times and generate around $50,000 per video. The women also sued several media and production companies run by the men.

During opening statements at San Diego Superior Court, the women’s attorney Ed Chapin called the case “a scheme to exploit young, financially-vulnerable women to participate in porn under false pretenses.”

“We want to ensure no other women have to endure what these women went through. We want them shut down,” Chapin said.

Chapin described a complex recruiting scheme where women ages 18-23 responded to modeling advertisements posted on Craigslist and were directed to submit applications on “fake” modeling websites that did not mention pornography and featured pictures of clothed models.

The women were told the job was for an “adult gig” or “adult video” to be made for a private collector or DVDs to be sold in foreign countries, Chapin said. GirlsDoPorn was never mentioned, and they were told the videos would not be published online.

Women who had questions about appearing in the videos were contacted by “reference women” who were paid by defendants and said the videos would never appear online, Chapin said.

“That was the clincher in the deal for a lot of the women,” Chapin said. “Had they known those points they had in their mind when they came to San Diego were lies, they would not have boarded that plane and they would not have come.”

Women who agreed to appear in the videos were flown to San Diego where they shot the videos in luxury hotel rooms. They were paid between $3,000 and $7,000 for the shoots.

The women signed four documents at the scene, including a model release form and a nondisclosure agreement, before shooting the porn films. But Chapin said the women were not given time to read over the contracts or given copies to take with them, and defendants distracted them during signing.

In a video shown in court Tuesday, one woman signing a contract was told to lift her skirt, bend over and spank her bare buttocks before returning to the document.

The videos ended up online and went viral, with GirlsDoPorn posting clips on some of the world’s highest-traffic websites – including PornHub – to generate users to their subscription-based website to view full-length films.

Internet “trolls” doxed the women – sharing their names, phone numbers and social media accounts on the website PornWikileaks, which was later obtained by GirlsDoPorn owner Michael Pratt in 2015.

Their personal information was removed from the website almost two weeks after their case was filed in San Diego, Chapin said.

Chapin said some of the women lost their jobs, dropped out of school and attempted suicide after their identities were revealed. Almost all the women complained to defendants, who blocked their phone numbers, and those who spoke out publicly were threatened with defamation lawsuits.

Defense attorney Aaron Sadock said “these were adult women who chose to do an adult film with a legitimate business.”

He suggested the women sued because they regretted appearing in the videos, but he disputed claims of improprieties with the contract, saying some of the women appeared in up to five videos and had multiple opportunities to raise alarms before signing releases.

Since the contract said the videos may be used “for any purpose,” Sadock said the onus was on the women to ask about how the films would be used.

“People watch porn online. Defendants didn’t have to sit down and explain where porn is being watched because everyone knows where porn is being watched,” Sadock said.

Sadock said GirlsDoPorn spent money to help women featured in its videos to challenge internet doxing and has taken down videos when asked.

He also said he will show the videos in court to defend his clients against allegations of rape and sexual assault by some of the women.

The women seek damages, to recoup profits, the rights to the videos, a permanent order requiring defendants to disclose their business practices to perspective models and punitive damages.

Judge Kevin Enright will oversee the two-month bench trial.

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