Federal prosecutors have charged three men and a woman with sex trafficking charges for operating the popular porn site GirlsDoPorn. At least 22 women featured on the site have sued the site’s owners, charging that the pornographers used lies and coercion to gain their participation.
The 22 women said they responded to ads for clothed modeling gigs.
When they were asked to shoot porn instead, they initially resisted. But they went along with it after the company assured them that their videos would only be sold on DVD to customers outside the United States and would not be posted online. That turned out to be a lie, as their videos wound up on GirlsDoPorn, a website with plenty of American viewers.
“I was in a state of panic when I first found out,” one of the alleged victims testified in court. “I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.”
“I kept asking if it would be shared with anyone here and they said ‘No, it would be in Australia only,'” she said.
One of the site’s owners, 36-year-old Michael Pratt, fled the United States last month. Co-owner Matthew Wolfe, 37, was arrested on Tuesday. Ruben Garcia, 31, the male performer in many of the site’s videos, was arrested on Wednesday.
The only woman defendant, 37-year-old Valorie Moser, was an administrative assistant for the porn company for more than three years. She recently testified in civil court about her involvement in the company—perhaps unaware that she was about to be criminally indicted. She described picking up women from the airport, taking nude photos of them, and managing many of the financial and logistical details of the shooting process.
The Daily Beast reports that “girls begged Moser to remove their videos, offering to return their earnings, or pay extra. For the first year at Girls Do Porn, Moser would forward these messages to Pratt. He often told her to block their numbers. She did.”
Prosecutors say that the defendants reaped more than $17 million in revenue from the site—much of it obtained under false pretenses. In their lawsuit, the 22 women are seeking $1 million each. The civil trial is expected to wrap up later this month. The criminal trial likely won’t get started for months.
“Some of the women were pressured into signing documents without reviewing them and then threatened with legal action or outing if they failed to perform,” prosecutors allege. “Some were not permitted to leave the shooting locations until the videos were made. Some were forced to perform certain sex acts they had declined to do, or they would not be paid or allowed to leave.”
Prosecutors say the charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.