RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — As XBIZ reported yesterday, performer Mercedes Carrera appeared at the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse for a hearing related to the February charges against her and her husband, Jason Whitney, for sexual abuse of a minor and possession of drugs and guns.
Last week XBIZ spoke to Carrera at the West Valley Detention Center, where she offered her version of her arrest and prosecution.
The article generated calls and messages to XBIZ from several people who knew the couple professionally and socially and wanted to provide some background to our reporting on the court case.
We feel this multi-sourced account of the peculiar relationship between Carrera and Whitney provides essential context to their current situation The boundaries, or lack thereof, between their professional and personal lives will play a central role in the state's case against them.
The interviews XBIZ conducted painted a consistent picture of an unusually intertwined couple whose involvement in sex work and favorite social causes also seemed inseparable. This picture is confirmed by the many public statements that Carrera and Whitney made and posted over the last four-and-a-half years.
A Fully-Formed, Intense Star
A voluptuous young woman walked into the ATMLA Agency in August 2014, determined to start a career in the adult industry. After a false start as “Paola Cale,” she was signed. Someone at the agency renamed her “Mercedes Carrera.”
Carrera had an instantly recognizable look, dark and exuberant, with a winning smile and the dangerous body curves of a classic pinup from a bygone era. She could play Latin American, Italian, Middle Eastern or just ambiguously “exotic.”
Later, political news site Breitbart.com would also describe Carrera as a “politically active porn star, free speech activist and GamerGate icon.”
She was also a single parent. Around 2008, Carrera had a relationship with a professional photographer that resulted in the birth of her only child, a daughter. People in the industry remember Mercedes having a small girl, around six years old, at the time she was signed.
As a brand-new performer, Carrera never went through the “up and coming starlet” phase. She arrived at ATMLA with a distinct persona, a va-va-voom beauty who looked more like the super-buxom stars of the 1950s through the early 2000s than any of the current crop of teen-next-door-looking performers.
Like her idol, the Greek goddess Athena, Carrera emerged fully formed as what someone who doesn’t follow 21st-Century porn would consider “a porn star.” The hair, the makeup, the body — from her very first scene, Carrera carried herself like a much more seasoned pro, striding confidently into the top of the MILF category.
People who were familiar with Carrera during that initial mid 2014-early 2015 period — only four-and-a-half years ago — describe her as friendly on set, eager to please and to be part of the industry, and also very interested in being perceived as extremely educated and intelligent. There was also an unavoidable intensity to her manner and expression.
Early promotional interviews, which should always be read with a grain of salt because their main objective is not to reveal intimacies but to establish a new performer’s persona, depict an articulate, self-assured woman.
“I got into the game late,” Carrera told AdultDVDTalk interviewer Captain Jack in October 2014. “I just turned 31. I was a fashion and print model from the age of 13 years old […]. I’m half-Puerto Rican and my dad was Swedish and Native American, so the height and the hair come from my father’s side.”
“I was born and raised in and around Los Angeles, California,” Carrera said in 2018 . “My father was in the military, so I grew up in a family that was very tied to the military and government defense." Carrera told friends recently that her father died and she has not had contact with her mother in five years.
As a model, Carrera claimed she had worked for Target, Macy’s and Skechers and that she had appeared in Cosmopolitan.
“After modeling,” Carrera continued, “I went to college for engineering and technology. I worked in aerospace for a few years, then as a technical trainer in telecommunications for a while, but I always kept my hand in the entertainment industry.”
Carrera claimed she worked as an engineer for about six years. “I started my engineering rotation in 2002-2003 as an intern,” she said, “which was an interesting time to be in aerospace. I ended up in a strategic program and I was on a big program that got shut down. The reason was because after 9/11, the world terror ramped up, so they kind of pulled all their money out of strategic programs. I was working for a 20-year program, I believe. Essentially, it was going to be an optical communications satellite system and those things take 20-25 years to develop. It was a huge program and a lot of money, so when you get into war, those budgets usually get pulled and reallocated to tacticals — things like drones and what-have-you.”
“When that program got shut down, I didn’t get fired, but it was a horrible time to be in strategical [sic] aerospace. Everybody was jumping ship trying to get into something like radar or something that was going to be more tactical. I just started to burn out, to be honest. It was very intense work, so I decided to take the opportunity to go over to telecommunications because that was kind of a burgeoning market at the time. Then, 2008 happened and the bottom fell out of the global market. The Japanese firm I was with lost a lot of money.”
“I did a lot of photography production work and production assistant work and other peripheral industry work as well as continued modeling part-time. I started doing erotic nude modeling as a hobby and was moderately successful at it.”
“I still had friends in the audiovisual world,” Carrera explained in 2018, “and I actually had a boss at one of the tech companies who was loosely involved in the adult industry in the technical, backend website stuff. So, that was actually my first exposure to porn — it was on the technical side.”
Carrera mentioned becoming a porn performer almost as a lark. “A couple months ago, I shot my first scene,” she told Captain Jack in October 2014, “and I ended up really loving it! At first I thought it would be a bucket-list experience but it’s turned out to be so much more. It’s super-fun and I’m relatively good at it and I found out that people will hire me nonstop to do it.”
She spoke about her college experience, mentioning that she had been a boxer and also a fashion model. But she also claimed that she “kind of came into my own when I was 23, 24, 25.” She described her sexuality as fluid. “I actually dated a girl when I was in college,” she said. “I’ve always been bisexual, I guess, [but] it was in my mid-20s when I really blossomed [and] I opened up a bit and experimented.”
“She came into the industry as a single mom,” a source who requested not to be identified told XBIZ, “with no visible boyfriend or ’suitcase.’”
“Suitcase” or “suitcase pimp” is a well-known, derogatory term for a male whose only involvement in the industry is being attached to a female performer as husband, boyfriend, partner, manager, driver, bodyguard, social media manager, suitcase-carrier or any combination thereof.
During early interviews, like most performers, Carrera encouraged the perception that she did not have a main partner. “I became more promiscuous in my mid-20s,” she told Captain Jack, “just because, as I felt sexier, I started to look at the world as a buffet. I don’t think I was overly promiscuous though.”
Carrera also said she was “a little more dominant by nature so I think I enjoy men who are dominant because it’s kind of a fun dance to see who will ‘win.’” She described herself as curious about control play, BDSM and mentioned that she had also “worked as a hypnotist before.” Carrera also claimed to have attended law school for a year and wanting to “go back at some point because I find it to be interesting.”
“One of my favorite movies of all time is 'Gladiator,'” she said when asked to describe her cultural interests in 2014. “I love that movie. A sexy man with principles fighting for what he believes in is the biggest turn-on for me.” In 2018, that was still her favorite movie.
“I like being alone in my personal time,” Carrera also said.
But Carrera was not really alone.
An Inseparable Couple
Jason Whitney is a tall, imposing man five years Carrera’s senior, who seemed to embody her “sexy man with principles fighting for what he believed in” ideal. Whitney — a hulking man, a video engineer with blondish short hair and a manly beard, a vocal fascination with the military, and useful technical skills — had the physical presence of a character actor in one of the viking or gladiator historical dramas that Carrera loves to watch.
While it is not clear if Carrera and Whitney were ever legally married, or even if they were a couple in 2014, several people who knew them have seen a photo of what appears to be a much younger Carrera and a bleached-haired Whitney, wearing a blue surgical mask, at a rave in the early to mid-2000s. This reporter has seen this picture.
Someone who socialized with the couple said that they both talked about conspiracy theories constantly, particularly about cabals "controling the world and money" and dooming ignorant people into "financial slavery." They told this source that when they first met, "they each thought the other person was CIA or FBI and that they were spying on each other."
Whitney started showing up with Carrera to sets and events a few months after she had joined the adult industry. Though Carrera told XBIZ last week that they had been “married for six years” (that is, since 2012 or 2013), several industry people don’t remember Whitney being around during the first few months of her career.
Whitney made a living as a freelance video engineer, regularly picking up work for ESPN, Fox Sports and other high-profile outfits, and bragging about it to acquaintances. But he also had plenty of downtime to devote to taking care of Carrera’s many content projects and side endeavors, and also to act as her unofficial manager.
The videographer often mentioned a background in "publishing," but it mostly seems to involve projected self-published projects about conspiracy topics.
Sometime in 2016, Whitney and Carrera became inseparable. They lived together, called each other husband and wife, and they had also shared time with Carrera’s daughter, whom Whitney was known to refer to as “our daughter.”
Neither of them were really in contact with their families, the couple told our sources.
Carrera's social media mentioned her struggles with mental illness, declaring herself "on the autism spectrum" and claiming to have been diagnosed as suffering from Asperger's. Sources close to the couple confirm that she could be even more outspoken about mental health issues, as was her husband.
By 2017, Carrera and Whitney started operating more and more like a single work and life unit. Whitney would come on set and stay through Carrera’s shoots, a practice that is generally discouraged by producers and directors as disruptive.
“It became impossible to do anything with Mercedes if Jason was not also involved,” said an industry source who was close to the couple around 2017-2018. “He drove her to set, he took care of the house and the kid for her, he answered her social media and emails at times.” Several people have commented that they found it odd that they would text or email Carrera, and Whitney would reply from her accounts, either as himself or pretending to be Carrera.
“Jason was not a ‘suitcase’ per se,” said a source who socialized with the couple, “but also he wasn’t really in the adult industry. He shot customs [videos] for her, and worked on her content, but he was never hired by a porn production company that I know of, or done anything more than hang around Mercedes’ sets and occasionally give some unsolicited technical advice.”
“He tried, though,” the source continued. “He was always asking if there was any [adult] work for him.”
It is not clear when Jason Whitney began using the name “Daemon Cins” for his adult projects with Carrera. Many friends of the couple knew him as Jason or Jay.
Controversial Attempts at Charity and Activism
One of the things that made Carrera very unusual from the very start in mid-2014 is that she did not waste any time in trying to establish a presence beyond the adult industry. She arrived to the industry with several agendas and she started implementing them even before all of her first scenes had been out.
In December 2014, only four months after she signed with ATMLA, Carrera set up something called The Porn Charity, which started posting on Twitter in December 2014 and was last active in May 2015. The last tweet related to fundraising was on February 15, 2015.
At the time of Carreras’ arrest on February 1, 2019, the website theporncharity.org had been deleted.
The Porn Charity — motto: “Saving the world...with porn” — started as a partnership between Carrera and The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC), an obscure Toronto-based company that became confusingly embroiled in GamerGate, which peaked in 2014-2015. “Mercedes Carrera, @TheMercedesXXX contacted us asking if we’d be willing to help out with her charity stream,” wrote The Fine Young Capitalists on their Tumblr in 2014. “Another charitable organization felt uncomfortable accepting money from her group due to the negative feedback they received from online trolls. Since multiple members of TFYC advocate for sex workers' right [sic] in Canada we felt it would be hypocritical not to work with her to make the world a better place.”
“TFYC and Mercedes Carrera are creating a nonprofit charitable subsidiary to manage a scholarship fund for people wanting to enter STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).”
According to the TFYC announcement, “money raised by Mercedes Carrera” would be used to seed this scholarship fund. “The scholarship will be available to anyone in North America and will be awarded based on scholastic achievement, personal achievements and work in local and virtual communities. We will not discriminate based on race, age or religion, nor will we discriminate if a person's personal achievements exist online.”
The first activity of this charity was selling t-shirts emblazoned with an anime-style drawing of Carrera as the goddess Athena. A “charity show” was announced for January 2, 2015, featuring Carrera and now-retired performer Paisley Parker. Mainstream publications such as Vice magazine covered the stunt.
"The Porn Charity is the brainchild of California porn star and former aerospace engineer Mercedes Carrera," Vice wrote. "Along with Toronto-based venture the Fine Young Capitalists, Carrera just held a live cam show to establish the first porn-funded STEM scholarship." The magazine described Carrera as "the porn star with the heart of gold."
On December 13, 2014, Carrera started a YouTube channel announcing that a man named Paul “a.k.a. Big Brain” would be “the first beneficiary of Mercedes Carrera's newly founded charitable endeavor, theporncharity.org. Paul is nearly blind and required a portable magnification reader that the Commission of the Blind would not approve and he could not afford. His best friend submitted a request on his behalf to be considered for my offer to help disabled gamers. The gaming community and I raised the money necessary within 72 hours via proceeds from my live cam shows and online donations, half of which I matched dollar-for-dollar with my own personal funds.”
One strange thing about Carreras’ involvement in the GamerGate controversy is that in her October 2014 interview she was asked if she played video games and she answered “no, although I was talking to a friend of mine who’s getting me into that. I don’t have time right now but I’m starting to get into it.”
Carrera updated her YouTube channel about once a month between December 2014 and May 2015 and then very sporadically until November 2016, by which time the posts had shifted from The Porn Charity, to military veteran issues, to first-person diatribes against “liberals,” “feminists” and “Social Justice Warriors.”
Though Carrera referred repeatedly in mainstream articles to The Porn Charity attempting to file for 503(c) non-profit status, there seems to be no record of a registered charity under that name.
In March 2015, Carrera announced that The Porn Charity would begin a podcast, but it never materialized. By April, four months after the charity’s launch, Carrera had moved to other things, though she continued to hashtag #ThePornCharity on her personal accounts for years.
After April 2015, Carrera seemed to focus her philanthropic efforts to aiding veterans.
At first, these efforts seemed separate from her adult industry career, which had started taking off. She started posting on YouTube podcast-style conversations with veterans about homelessness, PTSD, suicide, medical issues and re-assimilation to civilian life.
But in September 2015, the tone of her YouTube broadcasts took a turn for the vitriolic and her social media presence remained that way until her arrest over three years later. “I'm just going to rant about feminists whining to the U.N. about mean tweets,” she wrote, “while they ignore cultural child rape and the punishment of the men who stood up to it.” Then she added the tagline #GamerGate.
In November 2015, Carrera came out with another charity idea. “Veterans,” Carrera invited. “Enter for your chance to be my date to #AVN2016! #DateMercedes. Go to MercedesCarrera.net to enter your submission!” The website MercedesCarrera.net is also currently defunct.
Carrera explained that she had obtained permission from the award show to run a contest offering to bring the winner to Vegas as her date. In January 2016, Carrera received much publicity for the stunt and was photographed extensively on the arm of army sergeant Anthony Berg.
At this time Jason Whitney was fully enmeshed in her life as constant companion and videographer for both mainstream and self-produced adult content. A few days before the Vegas “date,” he had accompanied Carrera to the XBIZ Awards in Los Angeles, though he kept some distance from her on the red carpet. He can be seen in some of the footage a few steps behind her. By adult awards season 2018, he would not leave her side while the cameras flashed.
In Vegas, Whitney was photographed with the couple’s close friend, semi-retired performer Jessica Ryan, and credited by a mainstream photo licensing company as “adult film videographer/director Daemon Cins.”
In 2016, Carrera continued her various crusades against “feminists” and “Social Justice Warriors,” still proudly flying the flag of #GamerGate. She was invited to be part of a panel at SXSW and then loudly stepped down claiming she had been censored because of some aggressive tweets. On March 14, 2016, Carrera tweeted, “I’m done being censored and everyone deserves to know the truth,” and followed this with an open letter to the director of SXSW:
As my primary interest as an activist is in the realm of free speech, it goes without saying that I am tasked with upholding my convictions and morals. Therefore I must respectfully decline the request to abdicate my moral duty to those who might also find themselves in a situation where their speech may be censored.
It is my hope that you understand that free speech is woven into the very fabric of Liberty [sic] that has made this country great, and as a female person of colour [sic] and sex worker I am well aware that my right for such always hangs precariously in the balance unless I stand up for it on a daily basis.
I therefore leave you with the following legal maxim: he who fails to assert his rights has none.
The Breitbart news site featured Carrera, claiming that she had been a victim of “liberal totalitarianism,” running the headline “Free Speech Activist Mercedes Carrera Removed from SXSW Panel After Refusing to Censor Herself.”
In early 2017, Carrera and Whitney began working on their next entrepreneurial/philanthropic project. People who socialized with the couple in private describe them as "always talking about big things, grandiose things and using big words. They saw themselves as larger than life."
"When you talked to them," the source said, "Jay [Jason] is like the PR of the unit, and [Mercedes] is the mastermind. If in public Jay seems like the dominant one, in private [Mercedes] is the brains — and she won't let you, or Jay, forget it."
“Hey everyone!,” Carrera posted on Facebook in April 2017. “It's been awhile, have a new project I'm working on! Launching a new site, where all my male talent are veterans of the U.S. military! If you're a veteran of the armed forces and want to star in a scene with me, hit me up! xoxo -Mercedes.”
She teased the project again on June 15: “Stay tuned for a very exciting project I'm launching shortly!! #OpMILF ;)”
According to several sources involved with the project, Carrera and Whitney spent the spring and summer of 2017 working very hard on the launch of "Operation M.I.LF.," as they styled it. Their new website offered unpaid veterans the chance to pitch themselves as male talent for sex scenes with Carrera that Whitney would shoot. Some of the shoots, according to these sources, occurred at their home video studio.
Around the same time, Whitney, who had never served in the military but had an obsession with veterans, became involved in a streaming service called "VET Tv" [sic], a slate of mainstream shows, many of them comedy in the "Saturday Night Live" mold, targeted to current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. On June 23, 2017, Carrera posted a picture of herself in front of an American flag promoting Operation M.I.L.F. and VET Tv.
Whitney and Carrera were working on both of these projects on July 6, 2017, when the San Bernardino District Attorney alleges their sexual abuse of a minor started.
Operation M.I.L.F. officially launched on July 4, 2017. Carrera posted the site logo on Facebook, and a fan quickly replied “U r not milf my love” which prompted Carrera to clarify “It stands for 'Military I'd Like to Fuck.'” She changed her profile picture to a shot wearing an American flag bikini.
“OperationMILF.com is live!” she announced. “Stay tuned for new adult content from me costarring REAL US Military Veterans! Happy July 4th!”
It is unclear how many custom videos were privately shot and released by the couple, or whether the project was still recruiting amateur male talent at the time of their arrests.
Sources familiar with the couple's living arrangements point out that at least two male vets who were associated with Operation M.I.LF. and/or VET Tv, or were offered participation and refused, stayed with the couple in their home for a period of time. "It's a privilege to be among us," Carrera and Whitney supposedly told one of these long-term house guests.
One of these men is currently a performer in the adult business. A few weeks before their arrest, Carrera and Whitney posted a photo of themselves with the other man, costumed as a bodyguard with a prop earpiece, driving to the 2019 XBIZ Awards. At the awards, this man, who does not appear to be involved in the adult business, posed for red carpet photos next to the couple.
These vets and other former servicemen in the industry who interacted with the couple remarked on the peculiar interest both husband and wife showed in military matters. Carrera justified it as a tribute to her veteran father, whom she said had served in Vietnam and been part of elite units.
Many people assumed that the bear-like Whitney was also ex-military. His Instagram account, aside from a few pictures bragging about "my wife" Mercedes and his sporting video gigs, is largely devoted to military boasting and "barracks humor" verging into outright prejudice against Iraqis and Afghanis and very often misogyny.
Whitney allowed people to assume that he was connected to the military, but whenever he was asked directly, he would say he had not served.
Still, he appears to have spent much time online associating with and implying he was part of the rogue forum "JTTOTS" (Just The Tip of the Spear), described by a vet as "the dirt of the world" and "a bunch of people either in or out of the military who liked to stir up drama, be derogatory and get into online arguments with actual military influencers."
The Operation M.I.L.F. website was active for about a year from mid-2017 to mid-2018, when it was shut down due to lack of business. The domain operationMILF.com expired March 15, 2019, but it can still be accessed via the Wayback Machine.
On October 19, 2017, VET Tv posted a teaser for an episode of the comedy show “Sins of Our Seniors,” starring Carrera as an Afghani or Iraqi temptress who strips from a burqa and drops her lacy panties.
In March 2018, Carrera parted ways with her agency and she and her husband started managing her affairs. In March 2018, "Mercedes terminated her contract with ATMLA to represent herself from then on," a rep for the agency told XBIZ. A month later, Carrera gave an extensive interview to XCritic, where she continued promoting Operation M.I.L.F.
“It’s like a 'Fuck-A-Fan' thing for military veterans,” she said. “Right now, I’m really focusing on this military project and [another] website launch. I’ve done about five or six scenes so far that are edited with military veterans. These are guys that I find are cool guys. So, I want to start doing that more regularly, too.”
“The main thing is really the Operation M.I.L.F. stuff. That’s kind of the big thing. I’ve gotten thousands of submissions from military guys, so that should keep me busy for a while.”
Carrera’s last Facebook post before her arrest, in January 2019, re-promoted the culturally tasteless “Sins of Our Seniors” burqa skit. With her exotic looks, Carrera was no stranger to “Orientalism.” Before entering porn, Carrera had performed as a bellydancer and her last scene, released on the day of her arrest, depicted her as a stereotypical “gypsy fortuneteller.”
Carrera’s Facebook bio still reads, “Sometimes I do inappropriate things on camera for the enjoyment of stimulated people worldwide."
Her three jobs are still listed as “Lead MILF at Operationmilf,” “Founder at The Porn Charity” and “Worked at Adult industry.”
Gustavo Turner is the News Editor for XBIZ. Twitter: @GustavoXBIZ
Top photo: Jason Whitney and Mercedes Carrera at the 2018 XBIZ Awards. Photo by Gustavo Turner.