Joe Francis Avoids Jail by Pleading Out to Tax Evasion Charges

LOS ANGELES—Joe Francis will serve no extra time in jail and pay a $249,705 fine after pleading guilty Wednesday to two counts of filing false tax returns and one count of bribing Nevada jail workers in exchange for food.

Francis spent 301 days in jail after being indicted in 2007 by a federal grand jury on tax evasion charges in 2007. He is expected to receive a year of supervised release.

In a Los Angeles federal court today, Francis acknowledged having underreported $563,000 in taxes and giving more than $5,000 in goods to a pair of Washoe County, Nev., jail workers in exchange for food. Francis was held at the jail from June 2007 to March 2008.

The half a million dollars is far less than the $20 million in fraudulent deductions prosecutors alleged Francis made, allegedly for a Mexican home where he entertained celebrities, a Porsche and other items. He also will admit to giving more than $5,000 in goods to jail workers during his year of incarceration.

Following his appearance in court, Francis released the following statement.

"I am grateful that Judge Otero accepted my plea today," he said. "I’m very pleased, if the judge accepts our agreement with the government, all felony tax charges will be dismissed and I will not spend any more time in jail. I look forward to the complete resolution of this matter on November 6. Demand for the Girls Gone Wild brand has grown tremendously in the past 12 years and we have a lot of work to do to accommodate that demand. I’m happy to finally be able to redirect my attention to the business at hand, which is to provide quality entertainment for our millions of fans around the world. I want to thank Brad Brian, Greg Weingart, Susan Nash and the lawyers at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLC in Los Angeles, and David Houston in Reno. The one thing I’ve learned about myself during this process is that I can be a difficult client, but they are a fantastic group of brilliant legal minds who recognized the truth when they saw it and had the passion to care about what happened to me."

This plea is the latest in a spate of legal troubles for the Girls Gone Wild bad boy reaching back to 2003, when seven women filed suit against Francis, claiming that a Girls Gone Wild crew videotaped them on a Panama City, Fla., beach while they were underage. 

Since then, Francis has faced one charge or lawsuit after another, including violating 2257 federal record keeping requirements, charges of misdemeanor sexual battery, unpaid gambling debts, criminal contempt and more accusations that women were videotaped by his crews without providing consent. Some of the charges were dropped, and others he pleaded guilty to; some of the lawsuits have been resolved or withdrawn, and others are still pending, including his suit challenging the settlement in the Florida civil case that landed him in jail.

Wednesday’s agreement, which also calls for any tax liabilities of Francis or his companies from 2002 to 2008 to be handled in civil or administrative arenas, finally puts an end to the most serious tax evasion charges.