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Girls Gone Wild Producer Faces 22 Charges

<I>Girls Gone Wild</i> Producer Faces 22 Charges
Joe Francis, the producer of Girls Gone Wild videos, has been charged with 22 criminal offenses, including racketeering and obscenity, stemming from shoots during March and April in Panama City Beach. Besides his liberty, he is also fighting the loss of a jet and a sports car that were confiscated in conjunction with his arrest.

The racketeering charge alone is punishable by up to thirty years in prison.

Other charges against Francis include promoting the sexual performance of children (3 counts), conspiracy to promote the sexual performance of children (4 counts), using children in sexual performances (2 counts), procuring persons younger than 18 for prostitution (4 counts), conspiring to procure persons under 18 for prostitution (2 counts), selling, distributing or offering to distribute or possessing with intent to distribute obscene material (2 counts), prostitution (1 count), and trafficking in hydrocodone (1 count).

Francis' attorney said the girls identified in the charges all told the videos producers they were older than 18, some said it while being videotaped, and one or more had signed a waiver declaring themselves older than 18.

Investigators claim the Grumman G-1159 jet, leased by Mantra from Aero Falcons LLC, and the 2002 Ferrari, owned by Mantra, were used in the alleged crimes to transport Francis, crew and equipment and entice girls, some under 18, to appear in the videos. They were confiscated by the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which has laid claim to the property.

Franklin Harrison, the lawyer representing the Sheriff's Office in the assest seizure case, showed tapes in court today where the girls have said on camera that they were underage. In one video, someone could be heard coaxing the girls in question to touch each other for $200.

"If I say I'm 18, does it make a difference?" she asks when the cameraman indicates she is too young to appear. He agrees to shoot the segment again with the girl giving a birth date that would make her 20.

Harrison also introduced sworn statement and police reports showing "Girls Gone Wild" has faced similar allegations in California and Louisiana.

Mantra and Aero are both fighting the seizure. The case will continue May 21.

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