The owner of a San Diego-based porn website, Girls Do Porn, is accused of producing child pornography and sex trafficking a minor, according to a new federal indictment obtained by NBC 7 Investigates.
The child pornography and trafficking of a minor are new charges against website owner Michael Pratt, one of four defendants named in an initial October 14 federal complaint. Pratt reportedly fled San Diego for New Zealand and is wanted on a federal warrant.
The new federal indictment, filed November 6, adds two additional defendants, one of whom is a former employee of the website who was allegedly paid to mislead women about their videos and how they were to be released.
NBC 7 Investigates first broke the story about allegations that Pratt, videographer, and co-owner of affiliated websites Matthew Wolfe, and actor/recruiter Ruben Andre Garcia coerced women -- some as young as 17 -- to fly to San Diego to star in pornographic videos. In June 2016, 22 women filed a lawsuit against the men and the website alleging the men lured them to San Diego with promises of fast cash under the guise that the videos would never appear online and would only be sold to private collectors in Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere.
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.
Women, ages 17 to 22, were then given names of so-called “reference women” who investigators say were paid to tell the women the videos would not appear online and that they had also performed in videos - three of those reference women have since testified in court that they purposely misled the women.
In fact, NBC 7 Investigates confirmed the videos were posted on Girls Do Porn’s website and clips were featured on popular adult conglomerate sites, YouPorn, and PornHub, where they were widely viewed in the US and abroad.
On October 16, as the civil case moved forward, federal prosecutors arrested Garcia and Wolfe in San Diego on sex trafficking charges.
On Thursday, prosecutors bolstered their case by charging Pratt with the production of child pornography and sex trafficking of a minor.
According to the new indictment, Pratt attempted to “employ, use, persuade, induce, entice, and coerce a 16-year-old minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct…” for the production of child pornography.
In addition, prosecutors allege that Pratt “harbored, transported, provided, obtained, and maintained…” the 16-year-old and benefited financially in doing so.
While child pornography and trafficking of minors are new charges in the indictment, allegations that Pratt, Wolfe, and Garcia knowingly lured underage girls to appear in the videos are not new.
“I believed that I was clicking on a modeling app and that would be the reason why I clicked on it in the first place. I had just turned 17,” one of the women told NBC 7.
A plaintiff in the civil case alleges she also communicated with the men while she was a minor, sending the men nude pictures of herself when she was 17 years old, and performing on camera the day after her 18th birthday.
“[Pratt, Garcia, and Wolfe] recruited her to fly across country for a sex video when she was a minor,” the civil lawsuit also states.
An attorney representing Girls Do Porn in the civil case told a judge there was “overwhelming evidence” that all of the clients featured in videos were adults who chose to work with a legitimate business.
“No one forced them to go on that flight and travel to another city to do an adult film, no one put them under duress and forced them to sign a contract, to make these statements or to ultimately have sex on camera,” said attorney Aaron Sadock in his opening statements.
In addition to the new charges, prosecutors named two new defendants in the recent indictment. One of them, Amberlyn Clark, also worked as a “reference woman” for the Girls Do Porn website.
As reported by NBC 7, Clark testified during the civil trial that she was paid to persuade a “handful of women” to appear in one of the website’s videos.
Clark testified she was instructed to tell the prospective women that the videos, “wouldn’t be online and they would go to private collectors...outside the United States.” The Girls Do Porn owners allegedly paid her hundred dollars to make those false statements, with the exact amount determined by the attractiveness of the women.
“I would get paid more for an A-level girl than a C-level girl,” testified Clark.
The other additional defendant’s name is blacked out in the November 6 indictment. Two sources said that redaction is likely an indicator that the defendant has fled -- or could flee -- the country to avoid arrest and prosecution.
Garcia, Pratt, and Valerie Moser -- who managed the Girls Do Porn business -- all pleaded not guilty to the new indictment Thursday in federal court. One of the new defendants -- Amberly Clark -- had not been arrested as of Friday, and was not represented by an attorney at Friday’s hearing.