- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The founder and owner of “Girls Gone Wild” has pleaded guilty to charges of failing to create and maintain age and identity documents for performers in his sexually explicit films.

Joseph Francis entered the guilty plea Monday before U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow in Los Angeles. Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher, who heads the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said Francis pleaded guilty to two counts filed under a law passed by Congress to prevent sexual exploitation of children.

The law protects against the use of minors in the production of sexually explicit material by requiring producers to create and maintain age and identity records for every performer.

Under the agreements, she said, Francis agreed to pay the maximum fine of $500,000 and his two companies agreed to pay an additional $1.6 million in fines and restitution.

Santa Monica-based Mantra Films Inc., which is owned and operated by Francis, entered a plea agreement on Sept. 12 at U.S. District Court in Panama City, Fla. A related company, MRA Holdings Inc., also entered a deferred prosecution agreement the same day. Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Mrs. Fisher said Francis, Mantra and MRA Holdings will make a public acknowledgment of criminal wrongdoing and have agreed to fully comply with the record-keeping laws.

MRA Holdings also agreed that for three years it will employ an independent, outside monitor selected by the government who will have complete access to the books, records and production facilities to ensure the company’s compliance with federal law.

In statements filed in court, Francis admitted that “Girls Gone Wild,” acting under his direction, filmed performers engaging in sexually explicit conduct and produced and distributed sexually explicit video materials during all of 2002 and part of 2003 while violating the record-keeping and labeling laws.

In May, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales asked the FBI to begin conducting regular inspections of records kept by producers of sexually explicit material.

Producers are required to keep records on performers that include true name and date of birth and to produce these records on demand, in order to prevent the hiring of minors.

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