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Rape, Drugs, & Forced Porn: Here’s How Modeling Scams Lure Unsuspecting Victims

By September 27, 2019 No Comments
The following post contains portions of an article originally posted on CNN Money. 9-minute read.
TRIGGER WARNING

For years, a former Miami policeman spent “the majority of his waking hours stalking female models online.” Using a laundry list of aliases, he contacted hundreds of women and lured a number of them to fake modeling auditions in South Florida.

Once they arrived, he secretly drugged them and took them to another location where a “heavyset, tattooed man” would rape them on camera. This footage was then sold online and to pornography stores. Some victims didn’t find out about the videos until they were alerted by friends or complete strangers.

RelatedHow Porn Fuels Sex Trafficking

“Some of the victims do not remember anything until the following day, when they awoke, half-naked and semiconscious, either in their own cars or in their hotel rooms, sometimes covered in vomit or urine,” prosecutors wrote in a court document.

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These two men, Lavont Flanders, Jr. and Emerson Callum, were found guilty of sex trafficking and sentenced to life behind bars. (Their attorneys didn’t respond to requests for comment).

But many other scammers continue to evade authorities.

Some schemes are all about the money—requiring models and their families to pay thousands of dollars in the hopes of finding success. Others, like the one perpetrated by Flanders and Callum, are even more sinister—putting models in sexually abusive and dangerous situations.

RelatedHow Teens Get Tricked And Trafficked Every Day Into Doing Porn

Horror stories like these are frighteningly common in the modeling industry, where a lack of regulation makes it easy for criminals to prey on young aspiring models, a CNNMoney investigation has found.

Because even reputable agencies in some modeling meccas (like New York) aren’t licensed with any regulatory body, critics say that scam operations are able to thrive—blending in with all the other modeling companies.

Porn Is To Trafficking

Pure desperation

In an industry notoriously hard to break into, many models fall prey to criminals out of pure desperation. And it’s easy to find victims, since many wannabe models post public profiles online—with photos and personal details down to their age and measurements.

In fact, in the Flanders and Callum case, one popular modeling website says that Flanders used a variety of female aliases to contact 400 women on the site.

In another federal case, a San Antonio man posing as a “modeling promoter” recruited more than 100 men and women—including a number of minors—using multiple personas.

Related: How One Teen’s Dream “Modeling Opportunity” Turned Into A Sex Trafficking Nightmare

“This man abused and exploited his victims in unspeakable ways,” United States Attorney Robert Pitman said in a statement about the case.

The man, Gemase Lee Simmons, manipulated people into thinking that posing naked was what they needed to do to make it in the modeling industry, according to court documents. And once he had nude—and sexually explicit—photos and videos of them, he blackmailed many of them and threatened to publicize the materials if they didn’t continue to produce more content. Simmons’ attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

“I wanted my life. I wanted my innocence. I just wanted it back,” one of Simmons’ victims said in court testimony.

Simmons was found guilty of distributing child pornography, among other charges. He is currently spending life in prison.

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“I was shaking”

Many scammers go to extremes to convince their victims that they’re legitimate—even developing personal relationships with the young women.

One young woman, who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for her safety and privacy, told CNNMoney that a man posing as an attractive male model contacted her on Facebook telling her that she was beautiful and that he wanted her to come work at his agency (one of the top modeling companies).

Related: Porn Performer/Radio Host Lisa Ann Talks Extreme Abuse Of New Performers

They started communicating regularly—even talking on the phone late at night—and he eventually convinced her to meet with a talent scout for his agency. To ease her initial suspicion, he connected her with a supposed female model at the same agency, and she even received an email from the supposed head of one of the agency’s European branches.

She was walking into the cafe to meet the scout when the male model she had been communicating with called her and told her that since she wasn’t young enough (she was 22 at the time) to be as desirable as other models, she would need to perform sexual acts for the scout in order to secure a job.

Horrified, she turned around and ran to the bathroom, where she hid in a stall for hours.

“I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do… I was shaking,” she said.

Related: Uncovering The Truth About Fake Modeling Agencies That Exploit And Traffic Models

Today, she considers herself lucky that things didn’t get even worse. Since this occurred, she and her mother have heard of a number of victims of similar scams who ended up being raped. “Unfortunately, models are targets for the creeps in this world, and there needs to be better monitoring and control for their safety,” her mother wrote in a letter urging lawmakers to introduce increased protections for models.

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“No way to know whether someone’s legitimate”

Financial scams targeting models are nothing new. But with little oversight of the industry, they just keep popping up. And law enforcement can only do so much—shutting down one scheme only to find that another takes its place.

These schemes usually follow a similar pattern. Claiming to be modeling agencies, sketchy companies tell young people and often their parents that they are destined for a successful modeling career—all they have to do is pay upfront for photos, training and other fees. But the jobs never materialize, leaving them out of thousands of dollars.

In New York, one child modeling scheme allegedly stole more than $200,000 from 100 clients with promises of lucrative modeling jobs. This scam continued for years, even after state officials had tried to shut it down. Meanwhile, one New Jersey company agreed to pay $400,000 in 2013 to settle state charges alleging that it had deceived victims into believing they were signing up with a real agency. But the company merely provided photo shoots and a website where they could post their photos. And the same New Jersey-based operation was forced to pay $22 million in restitution and $3.5 million in civil penalties to settle similar charges in Florida.

Related: 10 Ex-Porn Stars Share Their Most Disturbing Stories From Within The Industry

Other models claim to have fallen victim to agencies that didn’t have any of the same warning signs—no upfront fees, high-pressure sales tactics or shady Facebook messages. Even those models who try to do everything they can to protect themselves financially and physically face a number of obstacles.

Sara Ziff, founder of the advocacy group the Model Alliance, says the lack of strict licensing requirements and oversight is a big part of the problem. While stronger regulation wouldn’t deter every potential fraudster, she says it would make it harder for scam operations to pass as legitimate agencies and could provide models and their families with a way to spot imposters.

Related: The Surprising Truth About The Trap Porn Sites Set For “Amateur Models”

Ziff often hears awful stories of models who have gone missing or have been sexually assaulted after being contacted by supposed “photographers” or “agents” on modeling websites.

But when she is asked by models and family members for advice, she says that beyond big brand-name agencies, it’s often impossible for her to separate the bad apples from the good ones—creating a risky environment for new models trying to break into the industry.

“There is no seal of approval. There’s no way to know whether someone’s legitimate,” said Ziff.

Click here to read the original article on CNN Money.

Normalizing Abuse Isnt Normal

Recent cases of advertised modeling turning to forced porn

According to recent news reports, twenty-two women are suing San Diego-based adult porn site, Girls Do Porn, alleging they were coerced into performing.

The site’s owners, Michael Pratt and Matthew Wolfe, as well as actor and recruiter Andre Garcia, have been accused of convincing young women to perform on-camera by dishonestly claiming the footage would not be posted or shared online and their identities would be kept secret.

Girls Do Porn’s tagline is “amateur teens having sex on video.” Each of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are adults, and no performers have been identified as under 18 at the time of filming, but the premise of Girls Do Porn’s videos is to imply that the young women are performing for the first time in porn. Supposedly, the appeal of this content is believing the women would normally never set foot on a porn set, but they are desperate for cash.

Related: 22 Women Suing Porn Site Say They Were Forced To Film XXX Scenes

Pratt and his colleagues relied on Craigslist to find women between the ages of 18-22, but in the advertisements for “Exceptionally Cute Ladies Wanted,” Girls Do Porn wasn’t mentioned anywhere. They completely misrepresented themselves as BeginModeling.com casting swimsuit models.

After the girls agreed, they were flown to San Diego, but instead of modeling gigs, they were told the job was actually to appear in an adult film. The women were reassured that their videos would only be released on DVD to collectors in Australia and New Zealand, not online. They were fed drugs and alcohol in many cases and forced to sign contracts they didn’t understand or have time to read through. Then, they were forced to have painful, humiliating sex on camera, sometimes for hours at a time.

Every promise of anonymity was quickly broken. Girls Do Porn shared the films on their free and for-pay website as well as posted clips on their tube channels and to major porn sites, all accompanied by the women’s real names.

Click here to read the full story on the Girls Do Porn case involving hundreds of women.

Why this matters

The underbelly of the amateur porn industry is filled with situations like these. As we see in the Netflix’s documentary, Hot Girls Wanted, not even the girls who knowingly sign up for porn understand what they’re getting themselves into. The porn agent featured in the film says, “Every day a new girl turns 18, and every day a new girl wants to do porn. I will literally never run out of girls.”

Related: Porn Agent Riley Reynolds From “Hot Girls Wanted” Sued For Exploiting “Teeny Bopper” Models

Unfortunately, many women fall victim to these online scams and end up online for the world to see. Bottom line: the porn industry is a sketchy business that seeks to make money off of sexual exploitation. And it doesn’t care about the lives that are destroyed in the process.

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