A porn actor and producer who worked for disgraced San Diego-based website GirlsDoPorn.com pleaded guilty today to federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, was one of six people charged with filming pornographic scenes that prosecutors allege involved coercing and defrauding scores of young women over the course of several years.
The website and its operators were also sued by 22 women who alleged they were told their videos would only be distributed to private customers, rather than proliferated online. A judge awarded the women nearly $13 million earlier this year, a few months after federal prosecutors filed charges.
Garcia is the first defendant to plead guilty in the case. He admitted charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.
"This defendant was a key player in a despicable fraud that has devastated the victims," U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said.
Garcia is slated to be sentenced in San Diego federal court on March 5, with another hearing slated next month for the remaining defendants. The site's creator, New Zealand native Michael James Pratt, remains at large, with a reward of up to $10,000 available for information leading to his arrest.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office and testimony from the civil trial held last year, the women were flown to San Diego from across the United States and Canada to film scenes for the site, which advertised that its content featured women outside of the porn industry.
Some of the women testified in the civil trial that they responded to advertisements posted under the guise of modeling gigs, which included no mention of nudity, pornography or the GirlsDoPorn business name.
Other women hired as "reference models" spoke to uneasy victims over the phone and claimed they had been featured in prior videos without issue, falsely assuring victims that their videos would not end up on the internet, according to prosecutors.
Garcia's plea included admissions to recruiting and paying the reference women, who received a fixed fee for every woman they attempted to recruit, and additional compensation for any who agreed to film scenes, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
If the women ever changed their minds about filming or completing the scenes, the defendants threatened to sue them, cancel their flights home or post footage that had already been filmed online, though the intention was always to upload the videos onto the internet, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Other victims were physically prevented from leaving the San Diego hotel rooms or short-term rental units where the scenes were filmed, often with defendants barricading the doors with cameras or recording equipment, prosecutors said.
Once the women discovered their videos were posted online, the website owners ignored requests to take the videos down and cut contact with the women altogether, according to testimony.
In addition to the civil trial held in San Diego Superior Court, another lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of 40 women against Pornhub's parent company, Montreal-based MindGeek, for hosting GirlsDoPorn's videos. That lawsuit alleges MindGeek hosted the videos on Pornhub and its other pornographic websites despite being aware of the sex trafficking allegations.
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