Fugitive Kiwi porn king's partner sentenced to 20 years in US prison

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Jun 2021, 1:04PM

Fugitive Kiwi porn king's partner sentenced to 20 years in US prison

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Jun 2021, 1:04PM

As fugitive Kiwi porn king Michael Pratt continues to evade authorities, one of his co-accused has been sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

American Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, has faced a court in San Diego, while Pratt's friend and fellow New Zealander Matthew Wolfe waits in a US jail for his trial.

Two other defendants in the case have pleaded guilty and a third plans to fight her case.

Michael Pratt reportedly fled the US in 2019, as the net closed on his sordid empire.

The FBI is currently offering a $70,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Among Pratt's seedy offerings was adult video provider Girls Do Porn, which touted itself as offering videos of young women in "the one and only time they do porn".

The reality was more complex and far more sinister.

Garcia, who pleaded guilty in December 2020, admitted that he and Pratt were the lead recruiters for Girls Do Porn and its sister sites.

Garcia would also act as the performer and have sex with the women on camera.

He revealed they would target 18-20-year-old women with Craigslist advertisements seeking models, using fake websites and emails to provide an air of authenticity.

Once the young women replied, the men's X-rated intentions would be revealed.

Ruben Andre Garcia has been sentenced for his role. (Photo / Supplied)

If any of the women then tried to back out, they were offered all-expenses-paid trips to California and up to US$5000 in payments.

If they still resisted, the women were then contacted by young women paid by the company to convince the women to perform, promising that the videos would not be posted online.

Michael Pratt faces serious charges and a possible lengthy sentence. (Photo / Supplied)

In a 2019 civil trial, one woman testified that she was told the video would go straight to DVD and be sold in New Zealand.

When she later discovered it had been posted to some of the world's most popular porn websites, she says felt "shocked and confused".

In a lengthy statement, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California details the other ways that the men used to coerce the young women to have sex on camera.

"Before some of the video shoots, victims were offered alcohol or marijuana. Victims who consumed alcohol or smoked marijuana were directed to make a recorded statement saying that they were not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, even though they had just smoked marijuana or drank alcohol," the statement revealed.

It also detailed how the men would cancel flights, block doors and threaten the women so that they would be compelled to go through with the filming.

Told the shoots would last only 30 minutes, the women found themselves having sex for several hours, causing many of the victims pain and, in some cases, bleeding.

Garcia would eventually plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.

Matthew Wolfe remains imprisoned in the US awaiting trial. (Photo / Supplied)

Nearly two dozen victims packed the San Diego courthouse to hear Garcia's sentence, CourtHouse News reported.

Many gave emotional statements to the court, including one who revealed that she was trafficked when she was only 17.

Garcia sent a plane ticket to the young girl so that they could film on the day she turned 18, stopping on the way to the airport to buy a birthday cake to use a sick prop.

"Andre Garcia conned a 17-year-old girl to fly across the country so he could have sex with her and exploit her youth for profit," 'Victim K' said.

Garcia read an apology in court, telling his victims: "I would like to sincerely apologize to you — to the victims and the families — I was deceitful."

Calling the porn industry an "evil business" he added: "I accept responsibility for my actions."

"This defendant lured one victim after another with fake modelling ads, false promises and deceptive front companies, ultimately devolving to threats to coerce these women into making sex videos," said Acting US Attorney Randy Grossman.

"Even when victims told Garcia how the scheme had devastated their lives, he showed no regard for their wellbeing. The crime was utterly callous in nature and there is no excuse or justification for his conduct, which was driven purely by greed."

The FBI are still hunting for Michael Pratt. (Photo / Supplied)

Kiwi on the run

While his childhood friend Matthew Wolfe sits in a US jail facing trail, Michael Pratt remains on the run from US law enforcement.

The pair entered the porn business fresh from high school, launching their first websites in the year 2000.

Pratt eventually headed to the US to pursue the lucrative trade, with Wolfe joining him in 2011.

Financial records show the sites they operated in the US raked in US$17 million in revenue.

But as their profits grew, so too did the long list of young victims they left in their wake.

Eventually, a large group of women banded together to take a civil action against the company, which led to criminal charges in 2019.

In response to the civil claim, through his lawyer, Pratt denied the allegations and said the women had "failed to exercise ordinary and reasonable care on their own behalf".

Then Pratt was gone.

His friend Wolfe testified in the civil trial that he had flown to South America before heading to New Zealand from the Mexican city of Tijuana.

Herald inquiries with Pratt's family in 2019 offered no fresh leads on his whereabouts.

"We don't know where he is. You'd have to ask him those questions," family said.