GirlsDoPorn.com Lawsuit — $13 Million Verdict
Case name: Jane Does no. 1-22 v. GirlsDoPorn.com, et al.
Case type: Public Interest Litigation
Filed in: [Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego]
Docket: [Case no.: 37-2016-00019027-CU-FR-CTL]
In 2018, attorneys Ed Chapin and Cara Van Dorn of Sanford Heisler Sharp joined attorneys John O’Brien and Brian Holm in representing 22 young women across the United States whose lives suffered irreparable harm after they were conned into participating in pornographic videos for the San Diego-based online pornography business GirlsDoPorn.com by the site’s owner, Michael J. Pratt, and its operators, Ruben “Andre” Garcia, and Matthew Wolfe.
The 22 plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages, alleged intentional misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, misappropriation of name and likeness, and deceptive business practices, among other civil grounds.
On January 2, 2020, after a 99-day bench trial, Judge Kevin A. Enright awarded the plaintiffs $13 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The defendants were ordered to remove all videos of plaintiffs from the Internet and cease all distribution of them. During the civil trial, Pratt, Garcia, Wolfe, and several other individuals were criminally indicted for sex trafficking.
Pratt, Garcia, and Wolfe, operating in San Diego, ran adult websites through a series of overseas shell companies and defrauded hundreds of women over the course of more than a decade. At trial, the plaintiffs proved all thirteen defendants were alter egos of each other and joint venturers in the fraudulent scheme.
The plaintiff-victims, some of whom were paying their way through college or needed money for rent, were lured into the defendants’ pornography scheme through phony ads on Craigslist.com for clothed modeling gigs. Victims were promised thousands of dollars for 30 minutes of adult film work and guaranteed that their identities would remain anonymous and that the videos would never be posted online or distributed in the U.S. The defendants represented that the videos would be sold exclusively on DVDs overseas for private use and provided other women as references, who lied to the victims, claiming they had filmed videos and no one had ever found out.
When the victims arrived in San Diego for their shoots, they were prevented from reading their contracts and coerced into participating through lies, deception, and intimidation.
Around a month after filming, the victims learned the true nature of the defendants’ business when the videos were not only released on their subscription site girlsdoporn.com, but also prominently published on popular free tube sites like Pornhub.com. The defendants and “fans” of GirlsDoPorn also sent the videos to victims’ friends, family, classmates, and colleagues, and posted the victims’ names and contact information with the videos. As a result of this wide exposure, the victims were harassed and shamed, forced to leave jobs or school, and ostracized or even disowned by family and friends. The victims suffered immense emotional distress and economic harm, and their lives were derailed for years.
After a four-year legal battle, the plaintiffs were vindicated by Judge Enright’s finding in their favor on all claims, and they have been working to put their lives back together while the attorneys seek to recover assets to satisfy the judgment.
Since their arrests, Garcia, Wolfe, and several others have pleaded guilty to sex trafficking. Garcia was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, and Wolfe awaits sentencing. Michael Pratt was recently captured in Spain, while his victims, their attorneys, and federal prosecutors await his extradition to the U.S.
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