Joe Francis is officially a free man — and won’t be going back to jail after pleading guilty to filing false tax returns.
He said he’s now ready to get back to his “clean business” … of getting barely legal girls to take off their tops.
IMAGINE YOU TRYING TO DO THIS?
A judge sentenced “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis on Friday to 301 days already served and a year of probation for filing false income tax returns and bribing Nevada jail workers.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero accepted the terms of a plea deal between Francis and prosecutors, who struck the agreement after learning on the eve of trial that a key witness had withheld information from them.
An ecstatic Francis politely answered questions during the hearing then turned and kissed his mother after he was sentenced.
“I think we won that one,” he said after the hearing.
The soft-porn mogul who filmed and marketed videos of young women was indicted by a federal grand jury on tax evasion charges in 2007. He initially was accused of taking $20 million in fraudulent tax deductions.
Under the deal, Francis pleaded guilty in September to two misdemeanor counts of filing false tax returns and one count of bribing Nevada jail workers in exchange for food.
He acknowledged omitting more than $500,000 in interest income on his 2003 tax returns and said he gave more than $5,000 in goods to the jail employees.
The plea deal also required Francis to pay $250,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
Otero did not restrict travel by Francis but said he must tell authorities if he intended to travel abroad.
Francis vowed to steer clear of trouble and get back to work building the “Girls Gone Wild” brand in the U.S. and abroad.
The tax case against him fizzled when his former accountant Michael Barrett told prosecutors about hundreds of e-mails that Francis is using in a lawsuit against Barrett.
Francis accuses Barrett in the pending litigation of fraudulently billing him for hundreds of thousands of dollars in phony goods and expenses.
Barrett, who had filed tax returns for Francis, had sought a reward from the IRS for pointing out alleged wrongdoing, a move that Otero told prosecutors put his credibility in serious question.
While “Girls Gone Wild” creator, Joe Francis was sentenced this morning in Los Angeles to time served and one year of probation related to tax evasion counts and bribing Washoe County Jail workers, here’s what’s next for the remaining defendants in the Reno bribery case:
Hollywood video producer Aaron Weinstein, 45, worked for Francis, and was helping him with his case during his incarceration at the Washoe County Jail in 2007 and 2008 for tax evasion charges. Weinstein is charged with giving gifts to jail workers, including then Washoe County Sheriff Sgt. Michon Mills, in exchange for Francis receiving favorable treatment. He faces trial in December.
Mills, 39, is also facing trial in December, charged with two counts of gratuity received by a public official. According to court documents, she recently requested permission to leave the state to go on a vacation to Hawaii and is working as a state highway flagger. She is accused of accepting a $4,500 watch and a $5,000 gift card to Saks Fifth Avenue department store from Weinstein. She claims the pair were friends, and that his gifts were inappropriate.
Former Deputy Ralph Hawkins, now of North Fort, Fla., pleaded guilty in July to accepting $3,200 in cash and four tickets to the Oakland Raiders game in exchange for bringing Francis food on two occasions. He is scheduled a Dec. 11 sentencing, facing two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
Former inmate specialist Mary Boxx, 54, is scheduled a Dec. 11 trial where she is accused of accepting bribes from Weinstein, directed by Francis, in exchange for unlimited telephone use and not being disciplined for infractions. She was given a home entertainment system and an airline ticket.
Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said when he became aware of the bribery allegations, he contacted the FBI who launched an investigation. The employees resigned during the probe.