Girls Gone Wild's Joe Francis Is Hiding Assets, Suit Says
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis has been accused of fraudulently transferring companies he controls in a scheme to evade paying off a woman who won a $5.77 million judgment after she sued over the non-consensual use of her image in one of Francis' videos.
Tamara Favazza, in a complaint filed last month at U.S. District Court in St. Louis, claims Francis intentionally dissolved MRA Holding LLC and divested Mantra Films shortly after her victory in a suit finding the companies liable for featuring her topless without consent in "Girls Gone Wild Sorority Orgy 2."
After paring the companies' operations, Francis shifted them to GGW Direct LLC through a shell company called Pablo Holdings LLC in Nevis/St. Kitts "in order to frustrate collection efforts," the suit said.
Favazza's suit goes on to say that numerous Francis bank accounts were closed after the judgment and that garnishments from more than a dozen companies that do business with Francis haven't yielded a dime.
As a result, Favazza seeks an order to take over some of Francis' assets, including a $2 million jet that seats 22 people, a $10 million house in Bel Air, Calif., a $30 million beachfront mansion in Punta Mita, Mexico, and one or more vehicles valued at more than $100,000.
Favazza also has identified other assets that could satisfy the $5.77 million judgment — Girls Gone Wild trademarks and websites worth about $20 million and all of its master videotapes and customer lists worth another $20 million. Francis also apparently has $30 million in holdings in Rothwell Ltd.
The suit notes that Francis faces several other judgments, including three from Steve Wynn who sued and was victorious in claims over an unpaid gambling debt ($2 million), defamation for claiming Wynn cheated his high-rolling casino customers ($7.5 million) and defamation for claiming Wynn said he was going to hit Francis with a shovel and bury him in the desert ($40 million). Francis also is said to owe $2 million in other judgments as well as IRS obligations.
John Medleer, a Clayton, Mo., attorney who represents Favazza, said that serving Francis with the federal lawsuit was a challenge.
"[But] we were able to successfully serve Joe Francis at St. Louis International Airport on Sunday night at about 12:45 a.m. when he got off his plane," Medleer told XBIZ. "We had two process servers. When he saw the first one, he bolted away from him. The second process server handed the papers into his chest and said, 'You’re served.'
"Joe Francis dropped the papers on the floor, pretending that the service did not occur, and walked off," he said.
Medleer said that he expects Francis will challenge service of process involving all of the companies he allegedly controls and are named in the suit — GGW Direct, GGW Brands, GGW Magazine, GGW Events, Pablo Holdings, GGW Marketing, Pepe Bus, Aero Falcons, Blue Horse Trading, Sands Media, Rothwell, Turtlecreek Properties, MRA Holdings, Mantra Films and J.F.
"We expect him to bogusly argue that he is not connected in any way with any of the defendants," Medleer said. "Once we clear the service of process hurdle, we expect the next step will be the defendant challenging in personam jurisdiction. We will be arguing that he has sufficient contacts to Missouri to be sued here.
"Once that hurdle is cleared, then we expect to take depositions of Francis and the defendants’ representatives."
Francis did not immediately respond to XBIZ for comment by post time.