Girls Gone Wild Founder Joe Francis Indicted for Tax Evasion
The indictment, handed down Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Reno, Nev., alleges that Francis's companies, Mantra Films Inc. and its marketing arm, Sands Media Inc., claimed more than $20 million in false business deductions in 2002 and 2003, the Department of Justice said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
Among other charges, the indictment (which can be seen on The Smoking Gun Web site), also alleges that Francis, 34, hid income from the same period using offshore bank accounts and entities supposedly owned by other people.
His lawyer says the charges are overblown. "The government has chosen to make a criminal case out of what we believe to be at most a civil tax dispute," Los Angeles attorney Jan Handzlik told the AP.
Francis faces up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines if he’s convicted. He is due to appear before a U.S. magistrate on May 22, Justice Department officials told the AP.
Francis's legal troubles in Nevada come on top of his problems in Florida. The U.S. Marshal's Office in Panama City, Fla., told PEOPLE that Francis was arrested at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Panama City airport on a warrant seeking his arrest for criminal contempt of court.
He is currently being held at the Bay County jail, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal's Office said. U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ordered Francis's arrest last week after Francis reportedly changed the terms of a settlement deal stemming from a 2003 lawsuit.
In that suit, seven women accused him of victimizing them by filming them in sexual situations while they were on spring break in Panama City. They were underage at the time.
Francis later called Smoak "a judge gone wild." According to the AP, Francis, who has dated Paris Hilton and been spotted hanging out with Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and other celebrities, makes an estimated $29 million a year selling videos of young women baring their breasts.