DOJ Releases Statement on Sentencing of GirlsDoPorn Recruiter

DOJ Releases Statement on Sentencing of GirlsDoPorn Recruiter

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Department of Justice released a statement regarding the June 14 sentencing of GirlsDoPorn (GDP) recruiter and male talent Ruben Andre "Dre" Garcia to 20 years in prison for “conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.”

The DOJ statement included a quote by Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman, delineating the specific nature of the charges.

“This defendant lured one victim after another with fake modeling ads, false promises and deceptive front companies, ultimately devolving to threats to coerce these women into making sex videos,” Grossman said. “Even when victims told Garcia how the scheme had devastated their lives, he showed no regard for their well-being. The crime was utterly callous in nature and there is no excuse or justification for his conduct, which was driven purely by greed. The harm inflicted by this defendant will last a lifetime for his victims. Hopefully today’s sentence will offer them a sense of justice.”

As XBIZ has extensively reported, the GirlsDoPorn operation was investigated by the FBI alongside a related civil case brought by several models for the site, only identified as “Jane Does," and was only disclosed when the civil proceedings were underway.

The DOJ statement quotes FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner, who said that “Ruben Garcia chose to exploit and deceive these young women for his personal satisfaction and financial gain and today he was held accountable for those decisions. Today's sentence is the first in this case; however, it is definitely not the last. I hope this sentence serves as a start to the healing process and brings some sense of justice for these young women, each with their whole life ahead of them.”

The investigation and prosecution — which resulted in Garcia pleading guilty to two charges in December 2020 — was led by DOJ prosecutors Joseph Green, Alexandra Foster and Sabrina Feve, FBI Special Agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Unit.

A Peculiar, Shady Operation Unlike Any Regular Adult Studio

The DOJ statement spells out precisely how GirlsDoPorn was atypical in the way it operated, particularly when compared with any standard adult studio.

According to the DOJ:

  • Garcia admitted “that as part of a premeditated scheme, [he] recruited victims to appear in sex videos for the websites by promising them that these videos would never be posted online”
  • Garcia told the models “that the videos would never be released in the United States”
  • Garcia told the models “that no one who knew the women would ever find out about the videos”
  • The statement noted, “Garcia knew these representations were false. Garcia knew the videos were being posted on the fee-based websites [GirlsDoPorn] and [GirlsDoToys, or GDT], and excerpts were posted on free pornographic sites such as Pornhub, one of the most frequently viewed websites in the world receiving millions of views, to drive paying viewers to GDP and GDT”
  • Garcia and GirlsDoPorn owner Michael Pratt — currently an FBI Most Wanted international fugitive — created "Craigslist advertisements, along with fake websites and email addresses consistent with the websites, to cause their victims to believe that they were applying to work as clothed models”
  • The statement noted, “Only after the victims responded to the advertisements would Garcia and Pratt disclose that they were actually seeking women for pornographic video shoots”
  • The statement further noted, “When victims expressed hesitation, Garcia directed other young women to contact the victims and falsely reassure them that the videos would not be posted online and that none of the victims’ friends, families, colleagues or classmates would find out”
  • In addition, read the statement, “Young women were selected as references, because Garcia, Pratt and Matthew Wolfe believed the victims were more likely to believe other young women over Garcia or Pratt. The references were paid a fee for each victim they attempted to recruit, with additional compensation for victims who agreed to film a video” 

The DOJ statement also makes the following points:

  • “Garcia and other members of the conspiracy took active steps to ensure the victims did not find out that he and the other members of the conspiracy operated GDP and GDT”
  • “Garcia knew that most of the young women they were recruiting would have never agreed to appear in a video if they knew that videos of their explicit sexual activity would be posted on the internet and marketed to their friends and family”
  • “After the victim arrived at the hotel or short-term rental unit, Garcia would continue to falsely assure them that the videos would not be posted online and that no one who knew the victims would see — or even know about — the videos”
  • “Victims were told that the contracts they were presented with simply said what the victims had already been told, including that the videos would not be posted online”
  • “Nowhere on the contract could the reader find a reference to 'girlsdoporn,' 'girlsdotoys' or pornography at all”
  • “Victims were not provided a copy of the contracts that they signed”
  • “Before some of the video shoots, victims were offered alcohol or marijuana. Victims who consumed alcohol or smoked marijuana were directed to make a recorded statement saying that they were not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, even though they had just smoked marijuana or drank alcohol”
  • “As a part of the conspiracy, Garcia and others would at times coerce victims into completing the videos once they were underway. Garcia and other co-conspirators threatened to sue the victims, cancel flights home, and post the videos online, if the victims did not complete the sex videos”
  • “Hotel room doors were at times blocked by camera and recording equipment, and the victims felt powerless and unable to leave”
  • “Victims were also misled about how long the video shoots lasted. Most were told the video production would take around 30 minutes, when in reality, they typically lasted for several hours”
  • “The sex for the video shoots was rough and caused many victims pain, and in some cases bleeding. Some victims asked to stop filming. In response, Garcia and others told the victims that they had to continue and finish the videos”
  • “Victims were also often paid significantly less than originally promised with Garcia and others would citing a tattoo, a mole, or some other perceived 'imperfection' to pay the victim less”
  • “Once the videos were posted online many victims contacted Garcia and his co-conspirators seeking to get their videos taken off the websites. The victims’ calls were blocked or ignored”

None of these practices are standard to adult video production in the U.S.

Laila Mickelwait Pens Deceptive Propaganda Editorial for USA Today

Earlier in the week, however, religiously motivated anti-porn crusader Laila Mickelwait reacted to the Ruben Garcia sentence by penning an op-ed for USA Today claiming that the GirlsDoPorn case was proof that “we are now aware that things aren’t always as they seem when it comes to online pornography.”

Mickelwait is a spokesperson for anti-porn Christian ministry Exodus Cry currently attempting to “secular-wash” her message by omitting any mention of her religious motivation and presenting herself as the “CEO of Justice Defense Fund,” a vaguely named nonprofit quietly created last year and registered to a PO Box in a Colorado strip mall.

Mickelwait and Exodus Cry have taken public credit for originating Nicholas Kristof’s sensationalistic New York Times article “The Children of Pornhub," published on December 4, which resulted in credit card companies electing to halt payment processing for many sex workers.

The goal of Mickelwait’s USA Today op-ed, published Monday, was to generalize the implications of the GirlsDoPorn sentence to smear Pornhub and the entire adult industry, and contradicting what the Department of Justice publicly stated about the specificity of Garcia’s crimes.

The headline of the USA Today op-ed was “GirlsDoPorn Sentencing Is Win for Trafficking Victims. But Justice Isn't Yet Fully Served.”

After luridly describing Garcia’s crimes, Mickelwait switches to claiming that “the videos were heavily monetized and globally distributed on Pornhub, the world’s largest and most popular porn site. Pornhub consistently ranks in the top 10 most visited among all the websites in the world, drawing more visitors in April than Instagram, CNN and Walmart.”

“Pornhub's infamous download button, placed on every video, ensured the women would never escape the trauma, as millions of users around the world had the opportunity to download the abuse videos and re-upload them at any time in the future — and they did,” she added.

Mickelwait also claimed that “justice has not been fully served yet for these victims and their perpetrators,” since “Michael Pratt, the main culprit of the trafficking scheme, fled the country and is a wanted fugitive. And Pornhub executives who are accused of distributing and profiting from the victims’ trauma have yet to face civil or criminal consequences.”

This is the usual Exodus Cry battle cry: that executives of websites where third parties upload illegal videos are as much “human traffickers” as actual perpetrators like Ruben Garcia.

“Garcia's sentencing is a groundbreaking moment in the fight against sex trafficking, but it’s not a sufficient end to the story,” Mickelwait wrote. “His victims have tasted justice, but they are not done yet with retribution. Fifty GirlsDoPorn victims are now suing Pornhub, demanding more than $100 million in damages for their pain and suffering.”

“What does all of this mean for the rest of us? It means we are now aware that things aren’t always as they seem when it comes to online pornography," she added.

This is followed by a call to hold to account “all individuals and corporations that participate in exploitation. And that includes holding Pornhub executives accountable for the role they played in the GirlsDoPorn trafficking scheme.”

For groups like Mickelwait’s Exodus Cry and NCOSE (formerly Morality in Media) that have vowed to “eradicate all pornography,” the Ruben Garcia verdict is merely a stepping stone towards their larger goal, even if the DOJ itself narrowed it to a very specific set of circumstances effected by a rogue operation that is not, by any stretch of the imagination, typical of adult industry practices.

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