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GirlsDoPorn Co-Founder Wanted On Federal Sex Trafficking Charges Arrested In Spain
Michael James Pratt is awaiting extradition from Madrid to San Diego, where he faces federal sex trafficking charges, among other counts.
Michael James Pratt, the co-owner of the porn sites "Girls Do Porn" and "GirlsDoToys" and one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted fugitives, was arrested in Spain last week.
The U.S. has had a warrant out for the arrest of Pratt, a New Zealand native, since November 2019 on 19 separate charges, including sex trafficking, production of child pornography, sex trafficking of a minor and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, according to the Associated Press. He had been on the lam for three years before his capture, but is now awaiting extradition to San Diego.
A video of Pratt's arrest in Madrid on Dec. 23 was posted to Twitter by Spain's National Police Corps. While the tweet didn't name Pratt, 40, it says that the man pictured is a New Zealander on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Pratt is the only Kiwi on the list, according to CBS News.
Authorities said Pratt’s websites generated more than $17 million in revenue between 2012 and October 2019 by using pornographic videos taken by “force, fraud and coercion” of women and underage girls. Federal authorities allege that Pratt and his co-conspirators lured their victims with ads for clothed modeling gigs. When they arrived to the locations — at luxury hotels far from their hometowns — they were instead offered between $3,000 and $5,000 for one-day pornographic shoots.
Many of these women were held against their will at these shooting venues and forced to sign contracts that they weren't given adequate time to read, according to The San Diego Tribune. At a civil trial in the case, many of the women testified that, while they were using the restroom, the co-conspirators would hide their clothes, wallets and belongings in order to prevent them from leaving, according to extensive reporting by VICE News.
Some were sexually assaulted and forced to perform sex acts that they had expressly refused to perform. In other instances, federal prosecutors said, the co-conspirators would threaten the women who changed their minds with lawsuits, canceled flights home and blackmail with the already-taken photographs and videos.
Pratt and his co-conspirators promised many of their victims in the U.S. and Canada that their videos would never reach the internet and only be viewed by individual DVD collectors in faraway countries like New Zealand. They allegedly paid other women to act as references, falsely assuring the victims that the company was reputable.
Instead, GirlsDoPorn would immediately upload their content to mainstream porn sites like Pornhub. In civil court, victims testified that Pratt and his co-conspirators would even promote their videos to victims' friends, communities and colleges.
Pratt fled the country after being hit with federal criminal charges. FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner said in a 2021 press release asking for the public's help in locating Pratt that the pornographer was "a danger to society, regardless of where he is, and is likely still victimizing people while on the run with his continued lies and false promises."
"The defendant lied and tricked these women, made millions along the way and left his co-conspirators to face justice while he fled," she added.
Many of Pratt's associates have already pleaded guilty to federal charges, according to VICE News. Ruben Andre Garcia, the site's most prominent male performer, was sentenced in 2021 to 20 years in jail by a federal court in California. Cameraman Theodore "Teddy" Gyi was sentenced to four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to counts of coercion, fraud and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force. Matthew Isaac Wolfe, the site's co-owner, pleaded guilty this year to federal trafficking charges.
Pratt was added to the FBI's Most Wanted list in September, and the bureau offered a $100,000 reward offered for information leading to his arrest.
Spain's National Fugitive Location Group tracked Pratt to a hotel on Gran Via in Central Madrid, where he had checked in using one of three regularly-used false identities, according to area news outlet El Español. The task force had been following Pratt's movements for over a year, the outlet reported.
Only 57 criminals on the FBI’s most wanted list have been apprehended outside the FBI's jurisdiction, Spanish authorities told the outlet, adding that Pratt's was the first such apprehension in Spain
Pratt's criminal woes began when he was named as one of the subjects of a civil lawsuit filed in San Diego in 2016 by 22 women who said they were victimized by his company; the case alerted federal authorities to what became the criminal sex trafficking case. A judge awarded the plaintiffs $12.7 million in damages in 2020.
"Personally, I'm happy they found him. But I'm even happier for all of his victims,” Brian Holm, attorney for the victims in the civil trial, said, according to VICE News. “Bringing Pratt to justice will bring the closure they need to heal. Christmas came a bit early this year."