Field Reports1 Oct, 2006 By: Thomas Haire, Courtney Beth Pugatch Response
Francis Pleads Guilty in Federal 'Girls Gone Wild' Case; Will Pay $2.1M in Fines
LOS ANGELES and PANAMA CITY, Fla. — "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis and his company, Mantra Films Inc., reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in separate cases in California and Florida that resulted in a series of guilty pleas on Sept. 12 to charges of violating federal child sexual exploitation laws and federal record-keeping and labeling laws for sexually explicit materials. As part of the plea deal, Francis and Mantra will pay $2.1 million in fines.
In the Los Angeles case, Francis will directly pay $500,000 in fines for failing to document the ages and identification of women featured in the racy but wildly popular "Girls Gone Wild" video series. In a statement, Francis admitted that footage of minors involved in sexual activities appears in at least two of the company's DVDs. Mantra Films will pay the remaining $1.6 million in fines after pleading guilty to 10 counts of similar charges filed in Panama City, Fla.
The "Girls Gone Wild" DVD series has topped more than $40 million in sales annually since 1998.
As another part of the deal, Francis' MRA Holdings Inc., a separate company, reached terms on a deferred prosecution agreement with the feds. Under the agreement, all charges against MRA would be dismissed if the company abides by the terms for three years. Measurement must be performed by a third-party company that will monitor Francis' company records and production facilities to ensure compliance.
Francis avoided the possibility of a prison term by reaching these settlements. In a statement, Francis said, "We regret that this occurred and will make sure that no other minors are used in 'Girls Gone Wild' films."
Aaron S. Dyer, attorney for Francis and his businesses, told the Los Angeles Times that Francis changed the business' policies to meet the terms of this agreement before the Justice Department began its investigation of incidents that happened in 2002 and 2003. "The company has already implemented the procedures necessary both to ensure that they have the appropriate records and to comply with the agreements," Dyer told the Times.
Long one of the direct response television business' most widely known products, the "Girls Gone Wild" series has sold more than $40 million annually since debuting in 1998, according to industry estimates.
Response Expo Set to Return in San Diego Next June
More than 40 percent of tradeshow floor space is sold within three days of the initial announcement.
SANTA ANA, Calif. — On Sept. 10, Response Magazine and the Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) announced the return of Response Expo, a three-day convention and expo scheduled for June 6-8, 2007 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. Response Expo was a regular stop on the direct response industry's event circuit until Advanstar Communications, then Response Magazine's parent company, pulled the plug on the event in 2001.
Within three days, more than 40 percent of the show's exhibit space was sold to some of the biggest names in the direct response industry — with more than three-quarters of space for larger booths already taken. Response and the DRMA expect more than 100 exhibitors and 1,500 attendees at the conference.