Michael James Pratt—wanted for sex trafficking, child porn—has been on the run since 2019
Pratt, originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, had been a fugitive since 2019, having allegedly fled the country amid a civil trial in San Diego. The 40-year-old is charged in a 19-count indictment with sex trafficking, production of child pornography, sex trafficking of a minor, and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments in connection with the now-defunct San Diego-based pornographic website GirlsDoPorn.com, which Pratt owns.
He was arrested by Spanish National Police at a hotel in Madrid on Dec. 21, where he had been residing under one of multiple false identities he was using to evade arrest. The Spanish National Police said Pratt’s arrest comes after “a year of exhaustive searches” and shared a video of the moment they took him into custody.
Fue condenado a cadena perpetua en #EEUU por delitos de pornografía infantil, explotación sexual, agresión sexual y ganancias ilícitas, llegando a ganar +17 millones de dólares pic.twitter.com/E9uLKMaGw9
— Policía Nacional (@policia) December 23, 2022
His arrest was pursuant to Interpol Red Notice, which is a request to law enforcement worldwide to find and arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action. As of Dec. 23, Pratt is held in Spain pending extradition.
“The capture of Michael Pratt is an example of how the FBI will pursue justice beyond U.S. borders—you can run but you can’t hide,” Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office said in a statement. “Thank you to our determined FBI San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force and to our federal and international partners for their commitment to making sure that Michael Pratt is brought to justice.”
The FBI had designated Pratt (pdf) as one of its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List in September. The FBI had initially offered $10,000 for Pratt in 2020, and later $50,000 for information leading to his arrest, before offering up to $100,000 and putting him as the 529th person on the list.
Tricks and Lies
Between 2012 and October 2019, Pratt and others allegedly used tricks and lies to recruit young women and female children in the Southern District of California and elsewhere to engage in commercial sex acts by force, fraud, and coercion.
According to the FBI, Pratt and his co-conspirators allegedly posted online advertisements for clothed modeling jobs. They then advised those who responded to the ads that the jobs were actually for pornographic videos and that they would be paid between $3,000 to $5,000 for a one-day video shoot.
Pratt and his co-conspirators allegedly convinced the women they would remain anonymous and that their videos would be for private collectors on DVD. He allegedly paid other young women working at his direction to act as references or provide false assurances to the women that any videos filmed would not be posted on the Internet.
Some of the victims were barred from leaving the shooting locations until the videos were made, and others were allegedly forced to perform certain acts even though they had declined to do so. Some of the victims were also allegedly sexually assaulted.
Pratt’s pornography websites generated more than $17 million U.S. dollars in revenue.
A $12.7 million civil judgment was handed down in January 2020 in a case brought by 22 women whose pornographic videos were posted online. As part of that judgment, the 22 women were given back rights to their images and had the videos of them taken down on Pratt’s websites.
Pratt’s arrest was carried out by the European Network of Fugitive Active Search Teams Network in collaboration with the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Oficina Central Nacional Interpol Madrid.
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.