Meet Michael Pratt, GirlsDoPorn Owner Who's Facing Class Action Lawsuit From 22 Women

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Meet Michael Pratt, GirlsDoPorn Owner Who's Facing Class Action Lawsuit From 22 Wo

Almost 2 dozen women filed a lawsuit.

In August 2019, filed a lawsuit against GirlsDoPorn and its owner, Michael Pratt. Who is Michael Pratt?

Back in 2015, the women answered ads thinking they were applying to be models. Instead, they were coerced into having sex on camera. Most of them say they were told that the videos would only be distributed overseas, but that was a lie.

The site GirlsDoPorn posted the videos online and, eventually, the women found their names released publicly as well. The women banded together to file a class-action suit against the company and its owner, Michael Pratt.

For his part, Pratt fled the country, just days before he was supposed to testify at trial. Pratt, a native of New Zealand, took off, even though he was under subpoena to appear in a San Diego court. His lawyers said the trip had nothing to do with the trial, but prosecutors didn't hold much hope that he would testify. 

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But now, a judge has awarded the women $13 million in their suit, which is just one more victory for the vulnerable and exploited. So, just who is Michael Pratt? Read on for all the sordid details.

1. Who is Michael Pratt and what is GirlsDoPorn?

GirlsDoPorn was founded in 2006 by New Zealand native, Michael Pratt. The San Diego-based adult subscription service advertised videos featuring women aged 18-22 doing X-rated videos.

The women were amateur performers — the site bragged that this was the "one and only time the women do porn" — without prior experience in the adult film industry. The lawsuit alleges that Pratt recruited performers by posting ads for models on Craig'slist. 

2. Bait and switch ads were used.

The 22 women in the class action say they were promised $5,000 to do what they were told would be a 30-minute video shoot. Once they agreed, they were flown to San Diego and put up in expensive hotels for the shoot. They signed release forms, but were verbally assured that the videos would be released only on DVD and distributed in New Zealand and Australia, not online.

However, once they arrived at the video shoots, they were told they had to go through with filming or be held liable for the cost of their flights and accommodations. They were paid less than what was originally promised, sometimes only making a few hundred dollars, according to testimony by a former GirlsDoPorn administrative assistant.

And the promise to keep the distribution of the videos limited was flagrantly broken. The videos ended up on the GirlsDoPorn website as well as on popular free sites like PornHub. 

3. The women were lied to about the distribution of the videos.

GirlsDoPorn videographer Teddy Gyi testified about the lies the women were told regarding the distribution practices. Gyi worked with principal videographer Matthew Wolfe and actor Ruben Garcia on the videos, and he told the jury that both of those men reiterated to the women that the videos would never be posted on the website. 

“I heard [Garcia] tell women the videos would not be posted online,” testified Gyi. Attorneys asked if he ever corrected Garcia and told the women that the videos would wind up on the website, and he said he did not. 

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4. And the fallout was devastating to the women.

After the videos went online, it was only a matter of time until identifying information about the women in them was also revealed. Their names and other information circulated on sites like WikiPorn, and the women faced harassment and embarrassment from their families, friends and coworkers. Some reported having to drop out of school or quit jobs to avoid the fallout.

One woman who spoke at trial shared that she only agreed to the shoot because of the lies she was told. If she had been told the truth, it would have changed her choices.

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"If I had known that not only was it going on the internet,” the woman who is identified as Jane Doe 15 said in her testimony, “but that they were posting it on the internet, that my name would be attached to it, that it would be in the United States, and that I wouldn’t be paid $5,000, but $2,000 less, and insulted because I was pale and bruised; if I had known that it was more than 30 minutes of filming, if I had known any of that, just any one of those; if I had known that other girls had been harassed and kicked out of school for it, if I had known that I would be kicked off the cheer team; if I had known any of that, I wouldn't have done it.”

The defendants alleged that the company conned them into making porn.

5. Pratt's former assistant testified. 

Valerie Moser, who was Pratt's administrative assistant, testified about the lengths the company would go to convince women to do the shoots. She and other employees were tasked with lying to women about the videos being posted online.

Moser said she would have text conversations with prospective models and tell them that there was no way the videos would be put on the website, even though the release they were asked to sign said that was possible. She recounted overhearing Pratt talking to women and assuring them that the only distribution for their videos would be on DVD overseas. 

Moser testified that women reached out to her and begged to remove their videos. They would offer to return their earnings or pay extra to get the videos taken down. Pratt would order Moser to block their numbers.

After the lawsuit was filed, Pratt asked her to delete all the communications she had had with women. Ultimately, Pratt fired her when he found out that she was keeping a record of everything that happened at work. That record became the basis of her testimony. 

6. Pratt fled the country. 

Pratt was subpoenaed to testify at the trial. However, in September 2019, he left the US. An official confirmed that he was gone on September 19. “We have been informed that [Pratt] is no longer in the jurisdiction and is no longer available to testify, even though he is under court order to here in court,” attorney Ed Chapin said.

Lawyers for Pratt said he wasn't trying to evade justice; it was a planned trip and he hadn't known what the trial schedule would be. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the trial,” attorney Daniel Kaplan said. “The trial date was uncertain for a number of months and the case has been going on for three years. People still have their lives to lead, including the defendants.” Another defendant testified at trial that Pratt had returned to New Zealand due to medical issues, after vacationing in South America. 

The women were originally seeking a total of $22 million in damages. The company was expected to claim that they signed releases authorizing the online distribution of the videos, and that supersedes the verbal assurances otherwise. 

7. The women won $13 million dollars in the lawsuit.

In December 2019, the judge in the fraud lawsuit ruled that the 22 women would be awarded $12.7 million. The trial, which lasted for four months, decided in favor of the 22 plaintiffs and against the 13 defendents, including Pratt.

Everyone affiliated with the GirlsDoPorn website were held liable, as they were operating as one business. The women were awarded with $3.3 million in punitive damages and $9.45 million in compensatory damages. They will also receive ownership rights to their images that appeared on videos and other adult websites, and the defendants were ordered to remove all the videos from all the sites they appeared on.

The website's owners also have to post in their recruitment ads that the videos will be on the internet, and women must get copies of the legal agreement beforehand and give permission for their names and any other personal information to be used.

The women's attorney, Ed Chapin, commented on the outcome, stating, “The money’s one thing but these guys have ruined [the plaintiffs’] lives and we have to clean this up as much as possible.” Pratt, Wolfe, and Garcia could face a lifelong prison sentence if they are found guilty of the criminal charges, including counts of child pornography.

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. 

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