Franchise to pay $2.1 mil fine

WASHINGTON — The new law requiring producers to make sure performers in sexually explicit material are 18 or older has netted its first guilty plea — from the makers of the “Girls Gone Wild” franchise.

Mantra Films, the Santa Monica-based company that produces the popular videos and DVDs, entered a plea agreement in U.S. district court in Panama City, Fla., and company founder Joseph Francis has agreed to plead guilty “to offenses to be filed later in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles,” the Justice Dept. announced Tuesday.

Francis will pay a $2.1 million fine.

Mantra “failed to create and maintain age and identity documents for performers in sexually explicit films that it produced and distributed, and it failed to label its DVDs and videotapes as required by federal law,” the announcement said.

According to court papers, Francis “was personally involved in persuading performers to engage in sexually explicit conduct.” Francis admitted that because of his actions and the failures cited above, footage of minors in sexually explicit scenes were included in DVDs and videos sold, Bloomberg News reported.

The law, recently passed by Congress, is intended to protect minors from sexual exploitation by forcing producers of sexual material to keep and maintain age and identity records that can be produced on demand.

“This case sends an important message about the Justice Dept.’s commitment to protecting children from all forms of sexual exploitation,” assistant attorney general Alice S. Fisher said in a statement. “Today’s agreements ensure that ‘Girls Gone Wild’ will comply with an important law designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors and puts other producers on notice that they must be in compliance as well.”

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