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Feds Crack Down On 'Girls Gone Wild'

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Dec 17, 2003 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Times have been tough for 'Girls Gone Wild' this past year with a lawsuit involving an underage model, a drug possession charge against the show's creator, and now the federal government is making charges of its own.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice filed a formal complaint Wednesday in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Mantra Films, Inc., the marketing and production company that promotes young college-age girls getting wild on camera and baring their breasts.

The government is alleging that Mantra Films has been charging customers for videos that were never ordered and is involved in "deceptive marketing" practices. The complaint seeks consumer redress and civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation, the FTC said in a statement.

"If they don't agree to a consent, then we will go to trial," Mitchell Katz of the FTC told XBiz.

Mantra has celebrated huge success since launching 'Girls Gone Wild' content over the Internet and in DVD and VHS format. The company has what it refers to as a "continuity" program, which enables customers to receive the latest 'Girls Gone Wild' video on a monthly basis.

However, many consumers who ordered only one of Mantra's videos are saying that they ended up being included in the long-term program and were not given the opportunity to cancel the order.

According to the FTC complaint, Mantra's television and Internet advertising failed to tell consumers how the continuity program operated; failed to obtain consumers' express consent to be enrolled; and did not give consumers an effective means to cancel their membership once they were enrolled.

The FTC contends that Mantra and 'Girls Gone Wild' owner and producer, Joe Francis, were violating the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and the Unordered Merchandise Statute.

Earlier this month, prosecutors dropped a drug possession count against Francis when oxycodone was found in his Florida home during a drug seizure by local authorities. Francis is still in hot water over other drug trafficking charges and could face prison time.

According to reports, the first drug charge against Francis was dropped a few weeks ago when it was revealed that Francis has a prescription for oxycodone.

Francis, an ex-boyfriend to hotel heiress Paris Hilton, was also recently harassed by security guards at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas during the taping of the Billboard Music Awards. He was mistaken for a prankster who had jumped into the hotel lobby fish tank.

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