The founder of San Diego-based website GirlsDoPorn.com, who had been on the lam for the past three years while facing federal sex trafficking charges, was arrested this week in Spain, the FBI announced Friday.
Michael James Pratt, 40, was arrested Wednesday by Spanish National Police in Madrid, according to a statement from the FBI. Pratt will be held there pending extradition to San Diego.
The New Zealand native is charged in a 19-count indictment for allegedly running the now-defunct website. Charges against him include sex trafficking, production of child pornography, sex trafficking of a minor, and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
Prosecutors allege he and other GirlsDoPorn employees coerced hundreds of women to appear in pornographic videos under false pretenses, with most of the videos filmed in San Diego.
Four of the website’s other employees have pleaded guilty to a variety of felonies. One of the defendants, porn actor and producer Ruben Andre Garcia, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, while videographer Theodore Gyi was sentenced to four years in prison.
Federal authorities placed Pratt on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List earlier this year.
“The capture of Michael Pratt is an example of how the FBI will pursue justice beyond U.S. borders — you can run but you can’t hide,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office. “Thank you to our determined FBI San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force and to our federal and international partners for their commitment to making sure that Michael Pratt is brought to justice.”
Prosecutors allege the website’s owners and operators lured unsuspecting young women, and at least one underage girl, with advertisements for clothed modeling gigs. When it was revealed that the job involved filming adult videos, the victims were led to believe the videos they appeared in would be distributed only to private customers living outside of the country, rather than proliferated online, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Pratt and his co-defendants allegedly paid other women to pose as “reference women” to falsely assure the victims that their videos would not be uploaded to the internet.
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, federal prosecutors said.
Some of the women were allegedly sexually assaulted or forced to perform sex acts they had declined to perform, according to the FBI.
Authorities say Pratt posted clips of the women’s videos online as a method of attracting viewers to the website’s full-length videos, a scheme that allegedly netted the website’s owners more than $17 million in revenue.
A warrant for his arrest was issued in November of 2019.
–City News Service