'Girls Gone Wild' filmer to pay $2.1-million fine

The maker of naughty spring break videos failed to document performers' ages.

By From wire reports
Published September 13, 2006

The company that produces Girls Gone Wild videos pleaded guilty in Florida Tuesday to violating a federal law that requires makers of sexually explicit films to document the performers' ages.

Mantra Films Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif., entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Panama City. The company's founder, Joseph Francis, also agreed to plead guilty to charges in federal court in Los Angeles, the Justice Department said. The company and Francis will pay $2.1-million in fines and restitution.

A second company founded by Francis, MRA Holdings LLC, entered into a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, also in Florida. Under terms of the deal, the company agreed to hire an outside monitor to ensure that it maintains proper records. After three years, charges will be dropped if it abides by the agreement and doesn't break the law.

The agreements "ensure that Girls Gone Wild will comply with an important law designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors and puts other producers on notice that they must be in compliance as well," Alice Fisher, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division, said in a statement.

The department said the charges are the first under a federal law requiring producers of sexually explicit material to record the true names and dates of birth of their performers and be able to produce the documents on demand.

The Girls Gone Wild videos are best known for showing topless students on spring break.

The company and Francis violated the record-keeping law in 2002 and part of 2003, prosecutors said.

"My companies and I acknowledge that what we did was wrong and violated federal laws," Francis said in a statement filed in court. "We also acknowledge that as a result of these violations, footage of minors engaged in actual sexually explicit conduct appeared in at least two DVDs that were commercially released."

Founded in 1997, Mantra sold 4.5-million videos and DVDs in 2002, according to Hoover's Inc., a business data firm in Austin, Texas.

Separate state charges in Florida alleging that two 17-year-old girls were videotaped by a Girls Gone Wild cameraman in sexual situations remain pending.