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Wynn sues racy-video maker

Soft-core pornographer Joe Francis has caused casino developer Steve Wynn to go wild.

Attorneys for Wynn and his Strip hotel-casino this week slapped “Girls Gone Wild” founder Francis with a defamation lawsuit stemming from public comments the videographer made about high-roller practices at the casino.

Wynn Las Vegas sued Francis in June, claiming he owes $2 million in gambling debts dating from February 2007.

According to the initial 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 repaid $800,000 in the following weeks but has not made any payments since, the lawsuit claims.

In a statement published July 1, Francis said he planned “on exposing how exactly Mr. Wynn deceives his high-end customers,” and that the resort “has chosen not to honor its agreement to apply certain discounts to the balances already paid.”

He followed those claims with a counterclaim filed Aug. 6, and amended Monday, asserting the gambling debts were obtained using booze, prostitutes, fraud and extortion.

Wynn’s lawsuit Monday cited the public comments, stating Francis knew they would be “widely disseminated,” as the basis for the defamation claim. Wynn’s lawsuit is seeking more than $10,000 in damages.

The Strip resort’s parent company called Francis’ allegations “damaging and libelous.”

“The claims made in the countersuit by Joe Francis are not only false but scurrilous beyond imagination,” said Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s statement. “Mr. Francis obviously felt secure making such defamatory statements under the protection of a judicial pleading. However, he has recently made other false and defamatory public statements.”

The Wynn statement continued: “We not only intend to press the proper charges for collection of his gambling debts, but we will also pursue Mr. Francis for damages resulting from those incredibly damaging and libelous statements. Each and every statement made by Mr. Francis is an outrageous falsehood and he will be held accountable for those statements.”

Francis claims representatives of Wynn altered credit instruments to change the amounts he owed and used prostitution and alcohol to place him “in a state of mind” that made it impossible for him to conduct business.

“Mr. Francis’ name was forged” on markers and Wynn management tried “to extort payment” during meetings with Francis, the filing claims.

The lawsuit also alleges the Strip resort:

• “Intentionally miscalculates” credit markers and changes computer records to match the “altered or manufactured markers.”

• Uses the district attorney’s office to threaten debtors with criminal charges.

• Refuses to give an accounting of credit while playing.

• Destroys video copies of high-roller play even when a dispute exists.

No court date has been set in either case.

This is not the first time Francis, who built an empire on videos of college-aged girls exposing their breasts at gatherings such as spring break and Mardi Gras, has run into legal trouble in Nevada.

Francis, who is now free on $1.5 million bail, 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 one count of felony child abuse and two counts of misdemeanor prostitution in Florida. He also pleaded no contest to two additional child abuse counts on behalf of his company, Mantra Films.

No date has been set for the tax evasion trial.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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