A porn website owner facing a possible multi-million dollar court judgment returned to his native New Zealand before the start of his civil fraud trial in a San Diego courtroom.
New details about Michael Pratt’s whereabouts were revealed by his friend and colleague, Matthew Wolfe, who endured three days of intense questioning by attorneys for 22 young women who claim Pratt and Wolfe duped them into performing explicit sex acts on camera.
Many of those women say their experience ended with thoughts of suicide, humiliation, and isolation from family and friends.
Reporter Mari Payton and Producer Dorian Hargrove discussed the latest information uncovered in their investigation into the San Diego based “Girls Do Porn” website in a new episode of INSIGHT - a podcast from NBC 7 Investigates. Listen to the latest episode below or click here.
Pratt’s alleged victims claim he and his colleagues falsely assured them that the videos they performed on would be distributed only on DVDs in foreign countries, and not shown on the internet. But Pratt and his co-defendants posted that X-rated content on their “Girls Do Porn” website, where the plaintiffs’ attorneys say a single video has been viewed more than 14 million times.
NBC 7 Investigates first reported on the allegations against the website earlier this year. Click here to read the original report.
Testifying mid-way through a contentious fraud trial, Matthew Wolfe revealed that Pratt returned to New Zealand because of “health issues related to threats he had received” after the publication of news stories about the “Girls Do Porn” controversy. Wolfe, who is also a defendant in the case, testified that Pratt took a vacation in South America before flying back to New Zealand from Tijuana’s international airport.
Wolfe testified that he spoke with Pratt as recently as October 1 and that he and Pratt communicate via “Signal”, an encrypted technology that assures users their conversations are private.
Attorneys for the women said they intend to call Pratt as a witness in the trial, which could continue until late October. It’s unclear if Pratt will be cited for contempt if he doesn’t return to San Diego to testify.
Under intense questioning by attorney Brian Holm, Wolfe confirmed that Girls Do Porn continues to post full-length, X-rated videos of the women, despite their lawsuit. He also confirmed that the website’s corporate owners allow hundreds of “affiliate” websites to use short video clips of the adult performances, to drive viewers to the Girls Do Porn website, where they pay a monthly fee for unlimited access to the so-called “amateur” videos.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys said Wolfe knows every aspect of the Girls Do Porn business operation. But in his more than 12 hours on the witness stand, Wolfe repeatedly claimed he didn’t know the answers to basic questions posed by the plaintiffs. He frequently responded that he “wasn’t sure”, “didn’t remember”, “couldn’t remember” or “didn’t know” details about the company’s business structure or day-to-day operations.
Wolfe claimed he never heard the models being told that their performances would be featured only on DVDs distributed only in foreign countries. He also testified that while he knew the women’s identities would not be protected, he didn’t tell them that fact because he was “busy setting up lights” for porn shoots.
Wolfe also said he never saw the women -- or the male actor in those videos -- smoke marijuana before or during the porn shoots. Wolfe denied that allegation even after he was shown on-location videos that he shot, which showed marijuana containers and drug pipes. Wolfe also denied that he and his colleagues downloaded the models’ names to the “Porn Wikileaks” website, an action that exposed the women to more ridicule.
Wolfe did acknowledge that he transferred money from his consulting company to an off-shore holding company on the island of Vanuatu. Much of the questioning by plaintiffs’ attorney focused on Wolfe and Pratt’s alleged use of off-shore business entities to hide the proceeds of their highly-profitable porn business.
NBC 7 Investigates found offshore shell companies tied to “Girls Do Porn” were previously charged with laundering billions of dollars for a Mexican drug cartel and trafficking illegal weapons. To read more about that, click here.
Wolfe also indicated that the X-rated videos are still made by Pratt and Andre Garcia, an actor who performs in the videos and allegedly helped recruit the women with promises that the pornographic videos would not appear on the internet. Wolfe said now, the contracts signed by Girls Do Porn models do not include the company’s name but do refer to “adult-oriented content.”