The FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of a New Zealand man who allegedly coerced young women into filming sexually explicit videos.
Michael James Pratt and co-conspirators allegedly used the internet to recruit young women for modeling jobs. The women who responded were later told the jobs were for sexually explicit videos. Investigators say the women were promised that the videos would not be posted online and that they would remain anonymous. In exchange, they would receive $3,000 to $5,000.
However, the videos were indeed posted online, and Pratt’s pornography websites made millions of dollars in revenue from them. His victims are believed to number in the hundreds.
“We believe he is likely still victimizing others. And that’s why we feel it’s important to get him off the street,” said Special Agent William McNamara of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office, which is investigating the case.
The charges against Pratt include production of child pornography and sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion. Pratt’s co-conspirators have all been arrested or have appeared in court. Among those charged were the websites’ cameraman and bookkeeper, who each pleaded guilty to trafficking charges earlier this year. Pratt’s alleged co-owner, Matthew Isaac Wolfe, is awaiting trial in San Diego. In June, one of the websites’ lead recruiters and producers, Ruben Garcia, of San Diego, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the trafficking conspiracy.
Garcia admitted that he and Pratt were the lead recruiters for two pornographic websites: GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys. Their target market was 18- to 20-year-old women. The pair created Craigslist advertisements, along with fake websites and email addresses, to convince victims they were applying to work as models. Only after the victims responded to the advertisements would Garcia and Pratt disclose that they were actually seeking women for pornographic video shoots, according to charging documents.
The FBI recently raised the reward to $50,000 in hopes that someone will come forward with tips and information to help advance the case.
“We know there are people that are helping Pratt,” said McNamara. “The hope for this campaign is somebody sees him, knows him, recognizes him, and contacts law enforcement.”