The civil trial against a San Diego-based porn website accused of lying to young women to get them to have sex on camera continues, however, the whereabouts of the owner is now unknown.
On Tuesday, attorneys for the 22 women who are suing the website, Girls Do Porn, its owner Michael Pratt, videographer Matthew Wolfe, and actor and director Ruben “Andre” Garcia, said they were informed that Pratt was no longer in the country, despite being under subpoena to testify.
“We have been informed that [Pratt] is no longer in the jurisdiction and is no longer available to testify, even though he is under court order to here in court,” said lead attorney Ed Chapin.
As reported by NBC 7 Investigates, 22 women filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly setting up an elaborate scheme to coax them into having sex on camera. The men did so, according to testimony from the women as well as interviews with NBC 7, by using aliases, and false promises that the videos would be sold only to private collectors in foreign countries on DVDs; never to be posted online.
To help convince the women, the men paid so-called “reference models” who, according to testimony, knowingly lied to prospective models to get them to agree to fly to San Diego to shoot the videos.
To see some of the text messages sent by the alleged “reference women,” scroll through below or click here.
Attorneys for the website have denied those allegations, pointing to the contracts each woman signed before shooting the video.
The trial began on Aug. 20 in San Diego Superior Court. During which, several plaintiffs who appeared in the videos have testified, as well as former employees including one of the videographers who admitted to lying to the women before and after the shoots.
The website’s owner, Michael Pratt, was set to testify in the coming weeks. Those plans, however, are now up in the air.
“I have never had this happen before we are going to be running it to ground and asking the court for whatever relief we can get,” added plaintiff’s attorney Chapin.
Daniel Kaplan, who represents the website and owner Pratt, dismissed any notion that his client intentionally fled the country.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the trial,” Kaplan said outside the courtroom. “The trial date was uncertain for a number of months and the case has been going on for three years. People still have their lives to lead, including the defendants.”
Kaplan said Pratt, a native of New Zealand, will continue to participate in the case.
In a new podcast from NBC 7 Investigates called INSIGHT, journalists Dorian Hargrove and Tom Jones share some of the women’s stories who were featured in these videos and what they uncovered about the Girls Do Porn website, including the company’s ties to shell companies that were charged with laundering billions of dollars for a Mexican drug cartel and trafficking illegal weapons. To listen to that podcast, click here or hit ‘Play’ below.