Women who say they were exploited by a San Diego porn website may see justice after the announcement of criminal charges filed against the website’s owners and employees.
On Thursday, co-owner Matthew Wolfe, 37, and male performer Andre “Ruben” Garcia, 31, of the website "Girls Do Porn” were arrested on charges of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
The website’s Administrative Assistant Valorie Moser, 37, is also accused of conspiracy in those sex crimes.
The location of the website’s owner, Michael Pratt, 36, is currently unknown as he’s assumed to be in New Zealand. Federal prosecutors declared him a fugitive from justice.
The 25-page criminal complaint contains many of the same allegations that women from across the country shared with NBC 7 Investigates back in February 2019.
Nearly two dozen women have sued the website and a civil trial is currently underway.
Reporter Mari Payton and Producer Dorian Hargrove discussed the latest information revealed in the civil trial in a new episode of INSIGHT - a podcast from NBC 7 Investigates. Listen to the latest episode below or click here.
Prosecutors claim Pratt, Wolfe, and Garcia used “deception and false promises to lure the victims” and knowingly misled the young women by promising them the pornographic videos would not appear on the internet.
In reality, prosecutors say Pratt, Wolfe, Garcia and Moser always intended to post the videos online, where they have been viewed millions of times. The U.S. Attorney’s office said financial records obtained by the government reveal those x-rated videos generated more than $17 million for the defendants.
“Some [women] were forced to perform certain sex acts they had declined to do, or they would not be paid or allowed to leave,” prosecutors said.
The criminal complaint, which was unsealed late Thursday afternoon, also claims that Garcia sexually assaulted at least two of the women after recording their videos.
Wolfe and Garcia were arrested Thursday morning in San Diego. They made their first appearance in federal court that afternoon.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Green argued that Wolfe and Garcia are a flight risk and danger to the community, and that the defendants could try to intimidate witnesses if released on bond.
After hearing that argument, Magistrate Judge Linda Lopez ordered Wolfe and Garcia to be held without bond, pending a detention hearing tentatively scheduled for October 15, 2019.
Moser, the website’s administrative assistant, voluntarily appeared in court Thursday.
Attorneys for the women who appeared in those videos thanked prosecutors for filing criminal charges against Pratt, Wolfe, Garcia and Moser.
“They lied, they concealed, and they did everything they could to keep these women from really knowing what was going to happen with those videos,” said attorney Ed Chapin. “They kept from them the very serious consequences that happened when the videos got out.”
Chapin’s colleague, attorney Brian Holm, said the criminal complaint mirrors the evidence gathered by his team for the civil trial.
“There is a fraud element in the criminal action which is exactly what we are trying to prove in civil court,” Holm said.
Attorneys who represent Wolfe and Garcia in the civil case attended their clients’ federal court hearing but did not represent them at that proceeding. The lawyers declined to comment about the criminal charges.
Magistrate Lopez appointed criminal defense attorneys to represent Wolfe, Garcia, and Moser at future proceedings.