Why Girls Gone Wild’s Joe Francis Escaped To Mexico

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Joe Francis, an American entrepreneur, film producer, and founder of the Girls Gone Wild entertainment brand, has been arrested and convicted for various crimes—including tax evasion, assault, and bribery.

Most recently, Francis was arrested in Mexico—where he currently resides with his family—for domestic abuse.

Early Life

Joseph R. Francis was born in Atlanta, Georgia on April 1, 1973. His parents are Raymond and Maria Francis.

His mother is Austrian. Francis credits his mother’s openness to nudity as a reason why he started the Girls Gone Wild brand, stating that nudity does not bother him.

Businessman and film producer Joe Francis is best known for launching the Girls Gone Wild entertainment brandBusinessman and film producer Joe Francis is best known for launching the Girls Gone Wild entertainment brand (Credit: Judy Eddy / WENN)

Francis’ family moved to Newport Beach, California when he was seven years old. In California, he attended Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Elementary School, Laguna Beach High School, and other various boarding schools. Francis worked at a computer and video school in high school, where he discovered he had an affinity for sales.

After high school graduation, Francis attended the University of Southern California’s Business Administration program, where he took classes at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. In 1995, Francis graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California’s Entrepreneurial program.

After college, Francis worked with his father but realized there “wasn’t room for two ambitious entrepreneurs in his office.” Francis eventually worked his way into television production, starting out as an assistant running errands around production offices.

Career and Girls Gone Wild

Francis eventually landed a production assistant gig at Real TV—a show that featured non-mainstream news and events—that paid him $350 per week.

While working at the studio, Francis discovered a compilation tape that the show’s employees shared around the studio. The tape featured footage that was not suitable for television, containing graphic materials like accidents and animal attacks.

Mark Shapiro (L) arrives at Six Flags Magic Mountain to help Joe Francis celebrate his birthdayMark Shapiro (L) arrives at Six Flags Magic Mountain to help Joe Francis celebrate his birthday and ride the USA’s hottest new roller coaster “Tatsu” on May 11, 2006, in Valencia, California (Credit: Andy Neitzert / WENN)

After viewing the tape, Francis developed the idea to start selling the graphic compilations in a product called Banned from Television. The project was not initially successful, and only garnered a few sales. Through infomercials, eventually, Banned from Television gained more popularity and sold hundreds of DVDs.

Francis bought a black convertible Porsche 911 with the money he earned from Banned from Television.

Francis found the footage hard to watch repeatedly and decided to venture into other media opportunities. While viewing the footage for Banned from Television, Francis watched a video of college-aged women who flashed their breasts on a spring break trip during Mardi Gras.

This idea turned into Girls Gone Wild, videos of college-aged women who willingly exposed themselves on camera and engaged in wild and spontaneous acts. Francis originally titled the project “College Girls Gone Wild” but decided to shorten the title.

As the demand for more footage increased, Francis started filming his own videos, rather than continue licensing the footage from others.

Joe Francis dated blonde actress Amber Hay from 2006 - 2008Joe Francis dated blonde actress Amber Hay from 2006 – 2008 (Credit: Nikki Nelson / WENN)

Girls Gone Wild gained massive success after Francis advertised the videos through infomercials on TV networks and stations. Girls Gone Wild advertised 30-minute late-night infomercials that targeted men to buy their videos. These infomercials were often more popular than the regular content aired on television stations.

Through the success of the brand, Francis met and collaborated with Snoop Dog on Girls Gone Wild infomercials and other projects.

The Girls Gone Wild girls would tour the country on a bus, promoting the videos and the brand itself. These tours were widely successful, with people all over the country trying to get a glimpse of the girls on the tour.

After multiple trips to Punta Mita, Mexico, Francis decided to build property for a Girls Gone Wild corporate retreat. Construction on the compound took five years to complete and finished in 2005. The compound included the main house, two guesthouses, three pools, and tropical gardens.

Francis named the estate “Casa Aramara” after the local Hichoul Indian name for “The Goddess of the Pacific Ocean.”

“Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis paid $5.45 million in November 2002 for a 6,000+ sq. ft. modern mansion in Bel Air“Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis paid $5.45 million in November 2002 for a 6,000+ sq. ft. modern mansion in Bel Air (Credit: Shaan Kokin / WENN)

Multiple notable celebrities have vacationed at the estate including Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Courteney Cox, and the Kardashian family.

In 2004, a pay-per-view TV company asked Francis and his company if they could produce an event to broadcast during the Superbowl Halftime. The Girls Gone Wild Halftime Games became the brand’s biggest and most successful project.

The company recruited college girls from across the nation to visit Casa Aramara, dubbed “Girls Gone Wild Island” for this project and participate in naked games.

The brand branched out to Guys Gone Wild in 2004. These videos featured women camera operators encouraging the men to get naked and striptease. These videos were not as popular as the Girls Gone Wild videos.

Kim Kardashian and her good friend Joe Francis attend the launch party for Girls Gone Wild MagazineKim Kardashian and her good friend Joe Francis attend the launch party for Girls Gone Wild Magazine at Area on April 22, 2008, in Los Angeles, California (Credit: Rachel Worth / WENN)

Girls Gone Wild created a Mardi Gras-themed DVD in September 2005 and donated the proceeds to the Red Cross to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Snoop Dogg was featured on the videos.

In 2007, Francis commissioned an apparel clothing line for Girls Gone Wild. The line featured swimwear, casual wear, and sleepwear.

Designer Ashley Paige created the swimwear line. Francis said that the clothing line is geared toward women who have an impulse toward “fun, freedom, free expression, and youthful exuberance.”

In April 2008, Girls Gone Wild launched a magazine that featured non-nude women. The magazine was written and photographed by young, relevant, and upcoming writers and photographers. The magazine was successful and garnered numerous subscriptions.

Legal problems and escape to Mexico

In 1998, a former employee of Real TV sued Francis, stating that the footage he was making money from for Banned from Television was his idea and that Francis needed to share the profits.

Francis was ordered to pay the employee $3.5 million. However, he negotiated the payment down.

“Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges in March 2008 under an agreement that allowed him to walk free after nearly a year in jail“Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges in March 2008 under an agreement that allowed him to walk free after nearly a year in jail (Credit: WENN)

Francis was jailed in 2003 for contempt of court in Florida after a judge deemed he hadn’t participated in meaningful settlement talks surrounding a lawsuit by two women who claimed Francis filmed them naked when they were underage.

The judge fined Francis $2,500 for asking if they were prostitutes. Francis spent more than 300 days in jail and pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges.

Francis’ home was broken into in 2004 by Riley Perez. Perez held Francis at gunpoint, forced him to disrobe, and filmed the incident to blackmail Francis for payment. Perez alleged mafia criminals asked him to commit the act.

In 2007, Ashley Dupré sued Francis and his company for allegedly filming her without permission. She dropped the lawsuit after Francis showed footage where she gave her consent.

The Department of Justice, in 2007, alleged that Francis had taken more than $20 million in false tax deductions on corporate returns in 2002 and 2003. The venue for Francis’ tax evasion trial was changed in April 2008 to the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Joe Francis and two beautiful female guests arrive at the House of Hype Pre-Awards PartyJoe Francis and two beautiful female guests arrive at the House of Hype Pre-Awards Party in Los Angeles on September 6, 2008 (Credit: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN)

Francis pleaded not guilty to tax evasion in July 2008. In September 2009, Francis pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of filing a false return and bribery. Francis was given credit for time served. United States District Judge S. James Otero accepted Francis’ plea for restitution to the IRS in November 2009. The please included $250,000.

In 2007, casino mogul Steve Wynn sued Francis for defamation. In February 2012, Clark County, Nevada judge Mark Denton awarded Wynn $7.5 million for the defamatory statements.

In September 2012, a jury awarded Wynn $20 million in the slander case. Francis alleged that Wynn threatened to kill him over a gambling debt.

However, all of the witnesses denied that Wynn ever made any threats. Judge Joanne O’Donnell reduced Wynn’s award to $19 million in November 2012 after reasoning the jury’s award was based on their dislike of Francis.

Abbey Wilson, who dated Joe Francis for 12 years until their relationship ended in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, claims he did drugs and was abusiveAbbey Wilson, who dated Joe Francis for 12 years until their relationship ended in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, claims he did drugs and was abusive (Credit: Johnny Louis / WENN)

Francis brought three women to his home in January 2011, leading to five charges. Francis was charged with three misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment, one of assault causing great bodily injury, and one of dissuading a witness.

On May 6, 2013, Francis was convicted on every charge and faced a maximum of five years in prison and/or $13,000 in fines. Francis believes he had been manipulated by the media.

Francis was sentenced on August 27, 2013, to serve a minimum of 270 days in county jail, 36 months of probation, complete a Level 3 Anger Management course, and complete a year of counseling. His legal team filed a new trial petition.

In February 2013, Girls Gone Wild Brands—the parent company for Girls Gone Wild entertainment—filed for bankruptcy to block Wynn Resorts from seizing the assets of the company for repayment of Francis’ gambling debts.

Entertainment reporter Christina McLarty and Joe Francis split in December 2009, just one month after they married at his estate in Punta Mita, Mexico estateEntertainment reporter Christina McLarty and Joe Francis split in December 2009, just one month after they married at his estate in Punta Mita, Mexico estate (Credit: KOKOPIX / WENN)

In April 2013, Francis was banned from the Girls Gone Wild offices after a request by the trustee supervising Girls Gone Wild Chapter 11 reorganization.

In May 2015, a United States District Court Judge issued an arrest warrant for Francis after he didn’t comply with the terms of his bankruptcy agreement. Francis fled to Mexico with his girlfriend and twin daughters.

Because there are no extradition treaties between the United States and Mexico for civil contempt warrants, Francis cannot be extradited to the U.S.

Abbey Wilson and Joe Francis are the parents of Athena Olivia Francis and Alexandria Claire FrancisAbbey Wilson and Joe Francis are the parents of Athena Olivia Francis and Alexandria Claire Francis (Credit: FayesVision / WENN)

In August 2020, Francis was photographed handcuffed in the back of a Mexican police truck, where he was arrested for domestic violence.

The charges were dropped on the condition that Francis attend and complete six months of psychological therapy. Francis is still living in Mexico with his family.

Kourtney Kardashian wore an Asos feather dress with a lace topKourtney Kardashian wore an Asos feather dress with a lace top (Credit: Judy Eddy / WENN)

The Kardashians really know how to go all out when the occasion calls for it. Scott Disick, Kourtney Kardashian’s boyfriend at the time, turned 30 on May 26, 2013, and went all out in celebrating his birthday by throwing a huge party at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Girls Gone Wild mogul Joe Francis also attended the bash.

Scott Disick celebrated his 30th birthday with Kourtney Kardashian and her mom Kris JennerScott Disick celebrated his 30th birthday with Kourtney Kardashian and her mom Kris Jenner (Credit: Judy Eddy / WENN)

Not to be outdone, Kourtney made sure that she would stand out by glamming up in a lace and feather ensemble that surprisingly worked for her petite frame.

The Poosh founder surely had the Vegas Showgirl theme in mind when she styled this outfit.

Scott Disick turns 30 with 'Lord Disick-Style' birthday bash at Hyde BellagioTelevision personalities Scott Disick, Kourtney Kardashian, Girls Gone Wild’s Joe Francis, and momager Kris Jenner arrive to celebrate Scott’s 30th birthday at Hyde Bellagio at the Bellagio over Memorial Day weekend on May 26, 2013, in Las Vegas, Nevada (Credit: Judy Eddy / WENN)

Feathers are meant for occasions when you want to dress up to the nines, but you can still style feathers to make them appropriate during daytime as well.

Check out this more refined version of Kourtney’s feather skirt from American fashion designer Michael Kors, which you can match with a plain top and perhaps a tuxedo blazer in order to balance out its flamboyant appeal. Are you up for it?

MICHAEL Michael Kors Ostrich-Feather Skirt in BlackMICHAEL Michael Kors Ostrich-Feather Skirt in Black, $140.00

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