A cameraman who filmed about 120 videos for the defunct San Diego-based website GirlsDoPorn.com pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
Theodore Wilfred Gyi, 42, is the second of six defendants to plead guilty in connection with the website, which prosecutors allege produced and featured pornographic videos that were created under coercive circumstances.
Prosecutors allege the defendants defrauded scores of young women over the course of several years by falsely assuring them that their videos would not be posted onto the internet, while others were coerced or threatened into completing scenes.
Gyi is slated to be sentenced on April 9. Porn actor and producer Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, pleaded guilty last month and is due to be sentenced in March.
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
at the conclusion of a civil trial held in San Diego.
Prosecutors say Gyi worked for the site from 2015 to 2017, during which he was allegedly instructed by co-defendants Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe to tell the women that their videos would not be posted online, though he knew otherwise.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office and testimony from the civil trial, 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 falsely claimed they had been featured in prior videos without issue or online proliferation, according to prosecutors.
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, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
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 trial testimony.
Of the four defendants who still face charges, Pratt remains at large, with a reward of up to $10,000 available for information leading to his arrest.
In addition to the civil trial held in San Diego Superior Court, a federal lawsuit was filed 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.