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Sex Trafficking

Pornhub to pay more than $1.8M to resolve GirlsDoPorn sex trafficking probe: feds

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: NY Daily News:
December 21, 2023 at 22:00

Pornhub’s parent company has agreed to pay more than $1.8 million to the government after admitting it profited from videos it hosted from the sex trafficking site GirlsDoPorn, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn announced Thursday.

The company, Aylo Holdings, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement Thursday to resolve a criminal money laundering investigation into whether Pornhub knew the money from GirlsDoPorn came from illegal activities.

In addition to the seven-figure fine, it’s also required to pay restitution to the website’s hundreds of sex trafficking victims. The details of those payments are still being worked out, but prosecutors said victims could get a minimum $3,000 or more.

Pornhub’s owners also agreed to the appointment of an independent monitor for three years.

“This deferred prosecution agreement holds the parent company of accountable for its role in hosting videos and accepting payments from criminal actors who coerced young women into engaging in sexual acts on videos that were posted without their consent,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said Thursday.

The men behind GirlsDoPorn, including the male actor in many of its videos, lured young women to San Diego with promises of modeling jobs, only to trick then into filming porn instead, according to the feds.

The women were assured the videos would be sold to private customers in countries like New Zealand and would never see the light of day, but GirlsDoPorn put the videos online instead, including on sites like PornHub.

Ruben Garcia, a producer who recruited and often had sex with the young women on camera, got 20 years behind bars in 2021 after pleading guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy charges. Videographer Theodore Gyi got four years behind bars.

Co-owner Matthew Wolfe pleaded guilty to several charges earlier last year, and awaits sentencing. The other co-owner, Michael Pratt, went on the run for three years until his arrest by Spain’s National Police in December 2022. His case is still pending.

GirlsDoPorn boasted on its Pornhub channel, “Real amateur girls having sex on video for the very first time … You will not find these girls on any other website — all girls are 100% exclusive — this is the one and only time they do porn.”

Aylo,  a Canadian company operating under the name Mindgeek at the time, received more than $100,000 from GirlsDoPorn from 2017 to 2019, and got more than $760,000 in ad money from the company’s videos, according to court documents.

Except Mindgeek’s officials knew in 2017 that several women filed a lawsuit claiming they were tricked into filming the videos, and they refused to honor repeated requests from women begging them to take the videos off PornHub, prosecutors said.

“I did not consent to have this on Pornhub! Please take this down. It is ruining my life,” one woman pleaded in 2019, saying she was told the video would never appear online.

Mindgeek didn’t start removing the videos until October 2019, when Pratt, Wolfe and the other GirlsDoPorn conspirators were charged in California, according to court documents. It still took more than a year for Pornhub to scrub all the videos, including a second “GirlsDoToys” channel run by the same band of sex traffickers, prosecutors said.

Pornhub, which is facing several looming civil lawsuits amid allegations it has hosted child abuse victims on his site, has sought to burnish its public image in recent months.

In March, a Canadian private equity firm named Ethical Capital Partners — which was founded in 2022 — bought Mindgeek, and changed the name to Aylo Holdings in August.

Aylo’s longtime chief legal counsel, Anthony Penhale, pleaded not guilty on behalf of the company to engaging in unlawful monetary transactions involving sex trafficking proceeds. If it sticks to the agreement, that charge will be dismissed in three years.

In a statement last month announcing the pending agreement with prosecutors, Aylo said that the company “did not engage in any illegal activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors or child pornography, and the Government has not charged Aylo with doing so.”

“As a company, the safety of our community is our top priority, and we will continue to work so that we may remain a leader in online trust and safety,” the company stated.

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