WASHINGTON — The company that produces the “Girls Gone Wild” tapes of young women baring their breasts and acting in other sexual situations pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges and agreed to pay fines totaling $2.1 million.
Mantra Films Inc., based in Santa Monica, Calif., made the plea in U.S. District Court in Florida on charges of failing to maintain proof of age and identification for its young performers in sexually explicit films. It also failed to label its DVDs and videotapes properly as required by federal law.
A second company owned by Mantra’s founder, MRA Holdings LLC, entered into a deferred agreement on charges of improper labeling. Under that agreement with prosecutors, the charges would be dismissed after three years if MRA Holdings cooperates with future government prosecutions, admits wrongdoing and pays fines.
The two companies and their founder, Joseph Francis, will pay $2.1 million in fines and restitution, the Justice Department said.
Separate state charges in Florida alleging that two 17-year-old girls were videotaped by a “Girls Gone Wild” cameraman in sexual situations remain pending against Mantra and Francis.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher.
An attorney for Mantra, Aaron Dyer, said the company would clean up its record keeping.
The charges involved “serious record-keeping issues that occurred several years ago,” he said. “Mantra takes these issues very seriously and has done everything it can to make sure this never occurs again.”
According to court papers, Mantra Films admitted to violating record keeping and labeling laws while distributing the videos during all of 2002 and part of 2003.
Founded in 1997, Mantra released 83 different titles and sold 4.5 million videos and DVDs in 2002, according to Hoover’s Inc., a business data firm in Austin, Texas.
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