Thursday, March 31, 2011

Culture Lesson: Joe Francis

Joe Francis is an American entrepreneur and founder of Girls Gone Wild and its company, Mantra Films. If you're an Old Person, or upstanding Young Person you probably don't know who he is.

Girls Gone Wild is a series of DVDs featuring inebriated, "barely legal" young women who coo to the camera, make out in the shower with other young women, and flash the camera. (Or that's what's featured in the late night commercials.) When I was in college, the camera crew would hang out in college clubs and troll for young women. So I think Joe Francis is gross.

So gross I can hardly write this on my own. As lifted from Wikipedia:


In 2002, Becky Lynn Gritzke discovered that she had been covertly filmed flashing her breasts at a Mardi Gras festival and that the image had been used without her permission on billboards advertising Girls Gone Wild videos and on the cover of a video. She sued Mantra Films and settled for an undisclosed sum under an agreement according to which GGW agreed to cease distributing all material bearing Gritzke's image.[16]
In June 2007, Francis and Mantra Films became the subject of another lawsuit claiming that images had been used without the subject's permission.[17] However, the plaintiff, Ashley Alexandra Dupré better known as the prostitute involved in the Eliot Spitzer scandal that led to his resignation as New York governor in March 2008, dropped the suit after Francis released footage showing her agreeing to be filmed.[18]

[edit] Charges in Florida

In an incident at Panama City Beach, Florida, during spring break 2003, Francis was arrested and then released on a $165,000 bond. He was initially charged with 71 separate counts, including racketeering, drug trafficking, and child pornography. Police confiscated his private jet and other property.[19] At a July 27, 2006 hearing, the judge threw out 200 hours of videotape and hundreds of other key pieces of evidence in the case,[20] and on January 4, 2007 dismissed almost all of the charges, ruling that "the evidence did not support the allegations," and the seized assets were returned. Francis plead guilty to several counts of 18 U.S.C. § 2257 record keeping violation and was fined $1.6M and sentenced to perform community service.[21]
On April 12, 2007, Francis was accused of bribery, possession of a controlled substance, and introducing contraband (cash and drugs) into the Panama City, Florida jail. The Associated Press reported that Francis (in jail for contempt of court) offered a guard one hundred and then five hundred dollars for a bottled water. Jailers allegedly found drugs including Lunesta and lorazepam in the jail cell. This is despite the fact that Francis had disclosed the medication upon his incarceration; the medications were necessary to his health, and his possession of them was otherwise entirely lawful.[22] Francis reportedly faced up to five years in prison if convicted on these charges.[23][24] On March 12, 2008 Francis was convicted on child abuse and prostitution charges after pleading no contest in a plea bargain. He also pleaded guilty to charges related to having contraband in his cell during the time he was held in jail. He was sentenced to time served (339 days) and more than $60,000 in fines and costs.[25]
On March 25, 2008, four women filed suit against him in Florida for filming them while underage, with one girl claiming she had been 13 when filmed.[26]

[edit] Wynn Resorts Ltd.

Francis is being sued by the Wynn Las Vegas casino for $2 million in gambling debt from February 2007. The lawsuit was filed on June 27, 2008 in Clark County District Court. A spokesperson for the casino claims that the debt has been in their collections department and the suit is a last resort to obtain the debt plus costs. In response to the lawsuit, Francis asserted that he had already paid his debt through agreements with the hotel including certain discounts. Francis claims that he was deceived by the hotel and its Chief Executive Steve Wynn.[27] Francis attended a deposition in connection with the lawsuit and tried to invoke the Fifth Amendment with respect to almost all questions asked, including whether or not he owned a cell phone. During the deposition Francis repeatedly took out his cell phone and appeared to answer emails, and at one point took a call. Ultimately, the judge in the case ruled that Francis was liable for the entire $2 million, calling Francis’ conduct “the most ridiculous exercise of the Fifth Amendment I think I’ve ever seen.” Francis is expected to appeal the judge's ruling.[28]

[edit] Federal criminal tax problems

On April 11, 2007, Francis was indicted by a federal grand jury in Reno, Nevada on two counts of tax evasion[29][30] under 26 U.S.C. § 7201.[31]
Francis was charged with filing a fraudulent corporate tax return for a company for which he allegedly is the sole shareholder. The United States Department of Justice asserts that Francis claimed over $20 million in false business deductions on his corporate tax returns during 2002 and 2003.[32] The Los Angeles Times quoted his attorney, Jan L. Handzlik, as saying: "The government has chosen to make a criminal case out of what we believe to be, at most, a civil tax dispute..."[29] A trial date was set and subsequently vacated in the case.[33][34]
On April 22, 2008, a court order was entered changing the location of the case (a change of venue) to Los Angeles, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, as case number 2:08-cr-00494-SJO.[35] At a hearing on July 21, 2008, Francis pleaded not guilty to felony tax evasion. Francis' attorney, Robert Bernhoft, said that tax returns for the businesses were prepared and filed by a former corporate accountant without being shown to Francis. Bernhoft asserts that when the accountant left the companies, the accountant contacted the IRS to report the accounting mistakes with the hope of collecting a bonus from the government Tax Whistleblower Program.[36]
On February 2, 2009, Francis was arrested for failing to attend his court hearing. The following day, he was released to home detention and electronic monitoring on the grounds that he was too sick to attend the hearing.[37]
In September 2009, Francis pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns and bribing Nevada jail workers. The plea agreement reportedly requires him to pay $250,000 in restitution. He would receive credit for the time he has served in jail, and would be subject to one year of supervised release.[38] On November 5, 2009, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero accepted Francis’ deal on the grounds that a key witness withheld information from prosecutors.
“It took us seven months, but in the end we demonstrated that the felony tax charges never should have been brought in the first place. As a result, the indictment was dismissed and the charges were reduced to only two misdemeanors with no jail time." Brad Brian, lead trial attorney, [39]
On November 6, 2009, The IRS filed a federal tax lien in the amount of $33,819,087.14 for failing to pay personal income taxes for the 2001, 2002, and 2003 calendar years.[40] On or about November 18, 2009; Francis himself stated the IRS seized over $100,000,000 in cash from various bank accounts.[41]

Ew! Am I right? He's friends with the Kardashian clan, by the way. In an early episode Kris Jenner called him in jail, and opined that he was a great guy. Now you know why I sighed angrily and rolled my eyes, right?

This guy was parodied in Piranha. That movie's a lot funnier now, right?

Additional Information:
Joe Francis, Wikipedia

No comments: