TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The FBI added the owner of a pornography production company to its Top 10 Most Wanted List Wednesday.
According to the FBI’s website, Michael James Pratt, 39, is wanted for allegedly recruiting young women and minors to commit sex acts “by force, fraud, and coercion” for his movies.
Authorities said from 2012 to 2019, Pratt and his co-conspirators recruited these young women and minors from the United States and Canada through fake clothing model ads, which turned out to be pornopgraphic productions.
“Pratt also allegedly paid other young women working at his and his co-conspirators’ direction to act as references and provide false assurances to the women that, if they filmed a pornographic video, the video would not be posted online,” the FBI said.
Some of these women would not be allowed to leave until they participated in the shoot, others were forced to perform actions they declined to do for the video, and other women were sexually assaulted, according to the FBI release.
“Pratt has victimized hundreds of young women through the course of this conspiracy,” said Supervisory Special Agent Renee Green with the FBI’s San Diego Field Office.
Pratt, a New Zealand native, made more than $17 million through his websites. A warrant for his arrest was issued in 2019, and this past Wednesday, the FBI named him as one of their most wanted fugitives.
“He used deceit and lies and vindictiveness to torture the young women he caught in his snare,” Green said. “And we believe that he will continue to look for the opportunity to victimize more women and more people for his own financial gain.”
Pratt is said to be 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. He has a New Zealand accent, ties to Australia and enough money to travel the world.
“We feel that there are people out there who have been helping Michael Pratt to hide,” Green said. “He has probably promised them the world — giving them money, buying them gifts in return for providing him a safe haven.”
Several of Pratt’s alleged accomplices have been arrested and convicted for their role in the conspiracy. The cameraman and bookkeeper for the websites pleaded guilty to trafficking charges in 2021.
Ruben Garcia, a lead recruiter and producer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for trafficking. The websites’ co-owner, Matthew Isaac Wolfe, pleaded guilty to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion.
He will be sentenced in October 2022.
Pratt is wanted for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; production of child pornography; sex trafficking of a minor and by force, fraud and coercion; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; and criminal forfeiture.
If you know where he is, call your local FBI office or American embassy. Tips can also be made to 1-800-CALL-FBI or online at tips.fbi.gov.