'Girls Gone Wild' CEO pleads guilty in sexual exploitation case

The founder of the company that produces the "Girls Gone Wild" tapes of women baring their breasts and acting in other sexual situations pleaded guilty to violating federal laws designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors.

Joe Francis, 33, pleaded guilty Monday on charges of failing to document the ages of young women engaging in sexually explicit acts in the videos.

As part of the plea deal, Francis agreed to pay a $500,000 (Ђ391,604) fine.

A judge will decide whether to accept or reject the deal at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 18.

Outside court, Francis told reporters he thought the chances are "pretty slim" that the judge would reject the deal.

"We are thrilled to have this stuff behind us," Francis said.

Francis' attorney, Aaron Dyer, said the charges were for record-keeping and not sexual exploitation. Dyer said the underage girls who had appeared in the videos had lied about their age to the company.

Francis' Santa Monica, California-based company, Mantra Films Inc., pleaded guilty earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Florida on similar charges. According to court papers, Mantra Films admitted to violating record keeping and labeling laws while producing and distributing the videos during all of 2002 and part of 2003.

A second company owned by Mantra's founder, MRA Holdings LLC, entered into a deferred agreement on charges of improper labeling, reports AP.

Under that agreement with prosecutors, the charges would be dismissed after three years if MRA Holdings cooperates with future government prosecutions, admits wrongdoing and pays fines. It must also hire an outside company to monitor its records and production facilities to ensure compliance with federal law.

Separate state charges in Florida alleging that two 17-year-old girls were videotaped by a "Girls Gone Wild" cameraman in sexual situations remain pending against Francis and Mantra Films.

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