The founder of San Diego-based website GirlsDoPorn.com, who has been on the lam since federal prosecutors charged him with sex trafficking and other felonies, has been placed on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Michael James Pratt, 39, a citizen of New Zealand, is accused of running the now-defunct website for approximately seven years, during which time prosecutors allege he and others coerced hundreds of women to appear in pornographic videos under false pretenses, most filmed in San Diego.
Prosecutors allege the website’s owners and operators lured unsuspecting young women, and at least one underage girl, with advertisements for clothed modeling gigs. When it was revealed that the job involved filming adult videos, the victims were led to believe the videos they appeared in would be distributed only to private customers living outside of the country, rather than proliferated online, despite always intending to post the videos on the internet, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
If the women ever changed their minds about filming or completing the scenes, the defendants threatened to sue them, cancel their flights home or post footage that had already been filmed online, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Authorities say Pratt posted clips of the women’s videos online as a method of attracting viewers to the website’s full-length videos, a scheme that allegedly netted the website’s owners more than $17 million in revenue.
A warrant for his arrest was issued in November of 2019.
The announcement of Pratt’s placement on the Most Wanted Fugitives List came with an increase in the reward for information leading to his capture, which now sits at $100,000.
At a news conference, FBI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy said Pratt “has the financial means to be anywhere in the world” and is believed to be receiving support from others while on the run.
Moy said Pratt has ties to, or may visit, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Singapore, Japan, Chile, Croatia and France, “just to name a few.”
Anyone with information was encouraged to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or send tips online to tips.fbi.gov. Individuals located outside of the United States were advised to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
“Our hope with the information and increase of the reward is that someone, with any information, no matter how small, will come forward,” Moy said.
Four of the website’s other employees have also been charged and pleaded guilty to a variety of felonies. One of the defendants, porn actor and producer Ruben Andre Garcia, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Pratt remains charged with 19 felonies, including production of child pornography, sex trafficking of a minor, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The website and its operators were also sued by 22 women featured in its videos, and a San Diego judge awarded the women nearly $13 million at the end of a civil trial.
City News Service contributed to this article.