‘Girls Gone Wild’ creator remains in Reno jail | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Girls Gone Wild’ creator remains in Reno jail

Sandra Chereb

RENO (AP) – “Girls Gone Wild” creator Joseph Francis, granted bail in a federal tax evasion case in Nevada, will remain in jail here to avoid being sent back to Florida where a judge refused to set bail in a state criminal case, his lawyer said Tuesday.

“We had hoped he’d be out today,” defense lawyer David Houston said. But in light of the Florida court ruling, his lawyers decided he should sit tight behind bars in northern Nevada.

“If he’s released on bail here, he could be arrested on the Florida criminal case,” Houston said.

Francis, 34, who was taken into federal custody May 14 in Florida after serving a criminal contempt sentence in a separate civil matter, arrived in Reno on Monday, Houston said. He appeared during a hastily scheduled hearing later in the day and pleaded not guilty to tax evasion, Houston said.

U.S. Magistrate Robert McQuaid set bail at $1.5 million cash and imposed other restrictions on his release.

Among other things, Francis, who owns a home in Incline Village on Lake Tahoe’s east shore, was to surrender his passport, avoid using his private jet, and restrict travel between Los Angeles County, California, and Reno for court appearances.

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He also was required to check in daily with court personnel in Southern California, Houston said.

Arrangements were being finalized for his release when the Florida ruling was issued.

“I just called off the flights,” Houston said. “If I post (bail), Joe Francis goes to Florida, and it took us a month to get him here. There’s no reason for me to want to send him back to that environment.”

Joe Grammer, spokesman for Florida State Attorney Steve Meadows, said Circuit Judge Dedee Costello on Tuesday revoked Francis’ bond on 2003 state charges of using minors in sexual performances, conspiring to use minors in sexual performances and prostitution.

She also ordered Francis held on new state offenses of possession of a controlled substance and possession of contraband. Francis was charged with those while in the Bay County Jail last month after he was accused of bribing a jail guard for bottled water to swallow unauthorized prescription sleeping medication.

Grammer said he was disappointed that federal officials in Nevada had granted bond in the tax case.

“I would be disappointed if he were released, but at this point I don’t think he’s going anywhere,” Grammer said.

Francis makes an estimated $29 million a year from videos of young women exposing their breasts and being shown in other sexually provocative situations.

The federal indictment handed up in April alleges his companies – Mantra Films Inc. and its marketing arm, Sands Media Inc. – claimed more than $20 million in false deductions on the companies’ 2002 and 2003 corporate income tax returns.

The indictment also charges that Francis used offshore bank accounts and entities purportedly owned by others to conceal income he earned during the same time.

The tax charges are the latest in a rash of legal problems for Francis.

He drew a contempt of court citation during negotiations in a Florida civil lawsuit brought by seven women who were underage when they were filmed by his company on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003.

A federal judge ordered him to settle the case or go to jail, and sentenced him to 35 days after lawyers for the woman said Francis became abusive during settlement talks.

Francis also is charged with misdemeanor sexual battery in Southern California for allegedly groping an 18-year-old woman at a birthday party in Hollywood.

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