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Field Reports

1 Feb, 2007 By: Thomas Haire, Courtney Beth Pugatch Response


 

Francis Faces More Community Service After L.A. Fed Court Sentencing

 

By Thomas Haire ( thaire@questex.com)

LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 22, a Los Angeles U.S. District Court judge sentenced Mantra Films Inc. and "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis to 200 hours of community service, in addition to two years probation and a $500,000 fine, for his role in failing to document the ages of young women who appeared in his famous "Girls Gone Wild" videos. The fine was originally announced on Sept. 12, 2006 as part of a plea deal with federal courts in Los Angeles and Panama City, Fla.


Just more than a month ago, the Florida federal judge sentenced Francis — as well as the company's president, general counsel and chief financial officer — to eight hours each of community service per month for the next 30 months in addition to paying the $1.6 million in fines he agreed to that case. Francis' attorney, Aaron Dyer, has said Francis would appeal the Florida decision — and an appeal of this decision appears likely as well.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow "told Francis she considered the charges serious and indicative of an 'endemic' problem at his company." During the hearing, attorneys for Francis called his crime "just a record-keeping violation" in pleading for leniency.

Morrow also denied a request from Francis' attorneys that he be allowed to travel without restriction. Francis owns a villa in Mexico and Dyer informed the judge that his client had a business meeting planned in China in the near future. Morrow remained firm that Francis must seek the court's permission to travel outside of the United States for business or anywhere for a pleasure trip.

Francis and his company, Mantra Films Inc., reached these settlements with the U.S. Justice Department in separate cases in California and Florida that resulted in a series of guilty pleas to charges of violating federal child sexual exploitation laws and federal record-keeping and labeling laws for sexually explicit materials. In a statement at the time, Francis admitted that footage of minors involved in sexual activities appears in at least two of the company's DVDs.

Francis avoided the possibility of a prison term by reaching these settlements. The Times reports that, outside the courthouse on Jan. 22, Francis claimed that he has been persecuted by the Justice Department. "Of course I've been unfairly targeted by the government," Francis said, according to the Times. "What better target than Joe Francis?"

 

FTC Fines 4 Diet Pill Makers for False Claims

 

By Courtney Beth Pugatch ( cpugatch@questex.com)

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined the marketers of four weight-loss pills a total of $25 million for making false advertising claims. The decision, set down on Jan. 4, didn't remove products from store shelves. Instead, the companies must abstain from making false claims.


"What we challenge is the marketing of the claims," said Deborah Platt Majoras, FTC chairman. "The marketers are required to back up the claims with the science, and if they can't do that, they can't make the claim. But we don't ban the products from the shelves."

Fines were levied against the marketers of TrimSpa, One-A-Day Weight Smart, CortiSlim and Xendrine. These companies had made claims of extremely rapid weight loss to reducing the risk of cancer.

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