Joe Francis Pleads Guilty, Avoids Jail in Tax Case

LTB logo

"I'm happy to finally be able to redirect my attention to the business at hand, which is to provide quality entertainment," said Joe Francis after his guilty plea was accepted on September 23.  "Quality" is not really the first adjective that comes to mind in connection with "Girls Gone Wild," the entertainment he was referring to, but I suppose ten months in jail does not expand a man's vocabulary.  According to the plea agreement, Francis will be sentenced to time served plus a year of supervised release, and will pay $250,000 in restitution.

Francis was facing ten years on two counts of filing false tax returns, which prosecutors had said included over $20 million in fake deductions.  He was allegedly deducting all the expenses of a home in Mexico, where Francis said he entertained celebrities.  Ordinarily you can't deduct the cost of doing that, I was saddened to find out.  (Clooney told me you could, but I guess he was just trying to get me to pick up the check for everybody again.  Deadbeat.)  But Francis argued that the government "didn't understand his business model," which he said required providing expensive entertainment for celebrity guests, just like Hugh Hefner does.  I don't think the feds bought that, but it is also true that in the agreement Francis admitted to underreporting only $563,000, which is a lot, but a lot less than $20 million.

He also pleaded guilty to the third charge against him, bribing workers at the Nevada jail where he's been residing.  He seems to have done this in order to get better food.

Francis would have gone to trial in August, but the government's case has been weakening steadily.  Francis has claimed that former employees set him up, and whether or not that is true the main government witness, Francis's former accountant, apparently did admit to stealing money from Francis.  That undermined his credibility a bit, and the case was also hurt by the government's failure to turn over thousands of emails between Francis and the accountant.  The judge reportedly suggested that prosecutors should consider accepting a plea, which they did this week.

Francis will be formally sentenced on November 16, and at the end of yesterday's hearing the judge told him to "stay out of trouble" until then.  "I'll try to stay out of nightclubs," Francis replied, according to a story in the Daily Journal.

In the hallway a few seconds later, according to the same story, he told reporters he would be hosting a bachelor party tonight at a nightclub.