'Girls Gone Wild' Producer Pleads Guilty To Exploiting Minors

Company Will Pay $2.1 Million Fine

Joe Francis and the Santa Monica-based company he built on soft-core "Girls Gone Wild" videos has agreed to pay $2.1 million in fines after pleading guilty to violating laws designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

Under the terms of a deal with the Justice Department, Francis agreed to personally pay a $500,000 fine to settle charges in Los Angeles that he failed to keep records of the ages and identities of the women who appeared in his films, the Los Angeles Times reported.

As a result, footage of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct appeared in at least two DVDs he released, Francis said in a statement reported by The Times.

The videos, which feature young women exposing their breasts and engaging in other racy activities, are sold through late-night advertisements.

Francis' company, Mantra Films Inc., takes in an estimated $40 million a year from the sale of videos such as "Ultimate Spring Break, Vol. 4" and "Girls Gone Wild on Campus Uncensored," people familiar with his business told The Times.

"Today's agreements ensure that 'Girls Gone Wild' will comply with an important law designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors and puts other producers on notice that they must be in compliance as well," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said in a statement reported by The Times.

The 33-year-old entrepreneur could have faced more severe punishment including jail time had he not reached the Justice Department settlement.

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