GGW’s Joe Francis Arrested

LOS ANGELES — Mantra Entertainment’s Joe Francis claims he was ill and under the care of a doctor after a federal judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Francis arrived at the hearing five hours after his scheduled hearing on tax charges, indicating he was suffering from the flu, and U.S. marshals arrested him.

Francis is facing charges in a tax evasion case which was filed in 2007 by authorities in Reno, Nev., but transferred to Los Angeles because that is where he lives.

Francis is accused of failing to pay taxes on more than $20 million in business expenses. The tax trial is due to start March 31. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

So far, the Francis tax evasion case is two years old, has had five trial date continuances, one change of venue and — when Francis chooses — a fifth set of defense lawyers.

In a development late Monday, lawyers from Munger, Tolles & Olson — a Los Angeles law firm previously thought to be retained by Francis — told U.S. District Judge S. James Otero that they won't represent the adult entertainment mogul.

Francis, founder of the Girls Gone Wild franchise, was scheduled to appear as his own lawyer on Monday after that revelation, as well as after another severed relationship.

Francis is involved in a rue with the Berhoff Law Firm, which seeks to withdraw from the case.

Francis, commenting to the Los Angeles Daily Journal last week, criticized the performance of the Bernhoff firm, which relocated last year from Milwaukee to Malibu.

"The Bernhofts are the Paris Hilton of lawyers — just to be famous, not to do anything," he said.