Video maker sued by LV hotel


Scratch the NBA, but add "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis to Steve Wynn's short list -- short on funds that is.

Wynn Las Vegas, which sued June 12 seeking payment for an outstanding bill for a fundraiser that took place during last year's All-Star Weekend, has been paid in full by an unnamed party, property spokeswoman Jennifer Dunne said Monday.

But on Friday, the Strip resort sued Francis, saying the 35-year-old owner of the video franchise featuring college students in sexually provocative situations, owes the company $2 million in unpaid gambling debts dating back to February 2007.

Francis, who has not been formally served the court papers, said through a representative Monday that he has no debt with the resort.

"As far as Mr. Francis is concerned, his obligations to the Wynn hotel have been fully lived up to per prior agreements," said Ronn Torossian, a spokesman for Mantra Entertainment, Francis' production company.

A Wynn Las Vegas representative declined to comment on the lawsuit.

News of the lawsuit against Francis comes a day after Wynn Las Vegas said it erroneously named subsidiaries of the National Basketball Association as defendants in its June 12 lawsuit seeking to recover $50,000 for the Alonzo Mourning Charities fundraiser.

Mourning, a former NBA star, is a co-defendant in that lawsuit.

Wynn's attorneys, who were preparing to amend the lawsuit when it received payment for the outstanding bill, will now file a request to dismiss that lawsuit, Dunne said.

"Wynn Las Vegas and the NBA have enjoyed a long-standing, productive business relationship," Dunne said. "Wynn Las Vegas will continue to support the NBA in their endeavors and regrets any inconvenience this error may have caused."

According to the lawsuit, Wynn Las Vegas extended $2.5 million in credit to Francis on Feb. 16, 2007, and an additional $300,000 two days later.

Francis made a $800,000 payment later that month, but the rest has yet to be paid, according to court papers filed in Clark County District Court.

The lawsuit is just the latest legal trouble facing Francis.

Francis is free on $1.5 million bail pending a trial on tax evasion charges in Reno.

Francis was booked into Washoe County Jail in June 2007 on two counts of federal tax evasion. He decided to remain in jail in Nevada rather than be sent back to Florida, where he faced charges of child abuse and prostitution.

He was released in March after pleading no contest to several charges under an agreement that allowed him to walk free after nearly a year in jail.

He pleaded no contest to one count of felony child abuse and two counts of misdemeanor prostitution. He also pleaded no contest to two additional child abuse counts on behalf of his company, Mantra Films.

Francis also pleaded guilty in a 2007 case to having sleeping pills and cash in his cell at Bay County Jail.

The charges stem from a case involving the filming of underage girls during spring break in 2003 in Panama City, Fla.

Francis makes an estimated $29 million a year on his "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

The federal charges claim Francis' companies claimed approximately $20 million in fraudulent business deductions. He is also accused of using offshore accounts to hide income.

No date has been set for the tax evasion trial.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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