On Oct. 10, 2019, federal investigators unsealed an indictment charging the owners and two employees of the websites Girls Do Porn and Girls Do Toys with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. They arrested three of the four defendants. They named the fourth, a New Zealander named Michael Pratt who had already fled the country, a fugitive.
The indictment coincided with a sprawling class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 22 unnamed women who claimed the company had operated an extensive fraud scheme to coerce women into filming illicit videos, while squirreling profits away in shell companies, and systematically doxxing those who complained. In January this year, a San Diego judge ruled in favor of the Jane Does, awarding them a total of $12.775 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
But the federal case trudges on, albeit more slowly due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and recent filings have continued to shed light on details of the company’s operation. On April 20, attorneys representing Matthew Isaac Wolfe, whom prosecutors describe as Pratt’s “right hand man,” filed a motion to release him into home detention, citing his sleep apnea as a potential risk for COVID-19. (The CDC does not list sleep apnea as a risk factor for COVID-19. Jails and other densely populated custodial settings, however, pose a greater threat of transmission). In a response filed two days later, prosecutors outlined their opposition to Wolfe’s release, detailing for the first time the findings from an FBI raid conducted the day before his arrest.
The search took place on Oct. 9, 2019, when federal agents raided Girls Do Porn’s office in downtown San Diego, and found evidence of efforts to flee the country and harass victims. Among the findings was a video script titled “22 Whores + 5 Shady Lawyers VS GirlsDoPorn.” The script listed the names of the victims in the civil suit, alongside personal information the prosecutors claimed was intended to embarrass or intimidate them, and the subtitle: “Share and spread this video as far and wide as possible.”
“Put each girls full name and location on screen before rolling there shit [sic],” one part of the script read, according to the motion. “Final Screen big text These retarded lawyers and disquisting whores waster 3 years of everyones time Ask yourself how viral these videos will go now if nobody is controlling them….Good Job :) [sic].”
The Jane Does’ attorney, Brian Hold, said the finding did not shock him. “The harassment defendants engaged in towards myself, my clients and co-counsel has been well documented throughout the civil trial and criminal case,” Holm told The Daily Beast. “That they were producing some sort of video in order to dox us comes as no surprise.”
Elsewhere in the office, investigators found a second script targeting a particular victim with a note, “Some of these things u might not know wtf ask wolfy”—meaning Wolfe—“he should.” (In a response filed in court, Wolfe’s attorney wrote that there is “no evidence” Wolfe “took any of the actions relating to this script.”) They also uncovered a list of the Jane Does’ names and numbers and a handwritten script, which revealed the company’s attempts to get information from victims by posing as journalists. “Hi My name is [******], I’m a journalist from LA, I’m calling in regards to the girlsdoporn case,” the template dialogue read. “I’ve heard your related to the case & curious to a comment if you have the spare time [sic].”
The agents also found evidence that Girls Do Porn affiliates were planning to flee the country, including a chart of countries that do not extradite individuals to the United States. The graphic indicated which nations had online banking and whether New Zealand citizens—like Wolfe—could get visas. In the motion for Wolfe’s release, Rutman said his client would surrender his passport and would not attempt to flee, citing national restrictions on travel related to the novel coronavirus.
According to travel records referenced in the motion, Wolfe’s fiancée, Shannon Bass, and her two children (one of whom is Wolfe’s, and one of whom came from a prior relationship) spent more than a month living in his home in New Zealand between December of 2019 and January of 2020. Bass comes from considerable wealth, according to numbers cited in the motion, and has set up trust funds for her children. A week after Wolfe was arrested, the motion states, $250,000 was deposited into one of the accounts.
In his reply, Rutman wrote that Bass’ visit had been for Christmas, and that the money had come from her mother, who sold a home in early 2018. She had intended to buy a house for the whole family to move in together. But after a lengthy search, a contract that “fell through,” and Wolfe’s arrest, Bass’ mother, “(who was very upset and suffers from a heart condition),” one parenthetical reads, decided to discontinue the purchase. She put the money into the kids’ trust account instead, Rutman said.
Wolfe had been previously denied bail in October after prosecutors furnished an extensive list of suspected witness harassment. Among the evidence: a witness who claimed one of Wolfe’s co-defendants offered her $1,000 not to testify in the civil trial; another witness who claimed her employer received an anonymous letter outing her as a former adult performer and then fired her; and a mock Twitter account set up in the name of the Jane Does’ lawyer which “contained explicit Photoshopped pictures of the attorney.”
The motions regarding Wolfe’s detention also provided more information on his background. Wolfe’s lawyer, Keith Rutman, painted the 37-year-old New Zealand citizen, who had lived in the U.S. for nearly nine years, as a “family man” who “has been selfless in taking care of a child that is not his own biological child even before the child was born.” If released, Rutman said, Wolfe’s primary work would be “child care and homeschooling.”
Wolfe’s parents, Rutman wrote, are “law-abiding and public service oriented.” His mother serves as a “long term health care professional” and his stepfather, Alan Taylor, spent 34 years as a fire service officer. His father worked as a police officer for 25 years before joining, in an ironic twist, New Zealand border control.
Wolfe’s motion for release was denied on April 24. As of May 4, he is appealing.