The Shady Side Of Joe Francis

The following article includes mentions of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and drug abuse.

When it comes to Joe Francis' shady side, there's a lot to work with, since the "Girls Gone Wild" creator is well ... pretty shady. The Atlanta, Georgia native has been a fixture in Hollywood and in tabloid headlines pretty much since 1997, when he made a name for himself thanks to his ability to get young women to willingly expose their breasts on camera while out partying. With that said, it should come as no surprise that Francis has been entangled in a slew of controversies over the years that have consisted of multiple jail stints, lawsuits, and an extortion plot — to name just a few.

Despite his bad boy reputation, Francis actually has a ton of celebrity friends, like the Kardashians, and has even appeared over the phone on past episodes of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." The entrepreneur had also been quite active in the early 2000s Hollywood party circuit, dating club queens like Tara Reid and Kimberly Stewart.

In April 2022, Francis was back in the news due to the documentary "Girls Gone Wild Exposed," a not-so-flattering look into his business. According to The U.S. Sun, the TV special covers his various arrests over the years and even features accusations of rape and abuse brought against him from women he allegedly encountered while making "Girls Gone Wild." So is Francis really that bad? Let's take a look into his shady side so you can decide for yourself.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Joe Francis' alleged sex crimes

Although Joe Francis made a career out of exposing women's bodies, he's insisted he's done so legally, getting their signed consent for their participation in "Girls Gone Wild." However, according to the New York Post, a woman named Jannel claimed in the documentary, "Girls Gone Wild Exposed," that Francis had raped her on his tour bus after picking her out in a club. She claimed, "He basically forced himself on me, and it hurt. ... I didn't give my consent that night, and he totally raped me."

This isn't the first time Francis has been associated with sex crimes. According to the Toronto Sun, in 2003, Francis was arrested for child pornography for reportedly filming underage girls engaged in sex acts. He was arrested again in 2007 on sexual battery charges for allegedly groping a woman, per Reuters. Then in 2008, Slate reported Francis pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution after an underage girl said he forced her to touch his privates.  

In 2009, Gawker referred to Francis as "a rapist" after a woman told the Los Angeles Times, via Page Six, that Francis had pressured her into sex on his tour bus. Francis threatened to sue, having never been formally charged for the assault. He's also apparently displeased with the 2022 documentary, writing on his Instagram, in part, "Every issue and accusation has been fully litigated. I was either found to be innocent or the victim of all of these terrible accusations."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Abbey Wilson accused him of domestic abuse

Joe Francis' ex, Abbey Wilson, probably has some bad things to say about him, considering the two clearly didn't part on good terms in 2020 after 12 years together. The U.S. Sun reported that, following their split, Wilson accused Francis of purposely trying to infect her with the COVID-19 virus by spitting in her face when he was infected. During that same altercation, Wilson claimed Francis violently assaulted her, pulling her to the ground and stepping on her head. Though Francis went to jail for 73 days for the incident, he was released after agreeing to attend therapy.

Therapy seemingly didn't help much, though, since — according to Page Six — court documents allege, "He told Abbey in front of the therapist that she should do him, the world and their daughters a favor and ... kill herself." Wilson also accused him of physically assaulting her again and threatening to release explicit videos of her as revenge.

Yet Francis told the Daily Mail Wilson made up the domestic violence accusations and bribed Mexican police. He even later accused her of theft, writing on Instagram, in part, "She is also a fugitive of justice for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars." Of course, Francis wasn't happy with her involvement in the 2022 documentary, "Girls Gone Wild Exposed." He wrote in part on the same Instagram post, "Abbey Wilson also stands accused of making false audio recordings of me and releasing them ... in order to defame me."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Joe Francis' questionable parenting

Joe Francis has made some questionable moves as a parent, especially relating to his nasty custody battle over twins Alexandria and Athena, whom he shares with his ex, Abbey Wilson. According to The U.S. Sun, in June 2021, Wilson was granted emergency custody of the girls and a restraining order against Francis after accusing him of drug use and physical abuse. Wilson claimed in court documents that Francis had not only threatened to take their children far away from her, but said, "[He] would scream at his daughters, he would insult them."

Despite Francis' fortune, Wilson indicated he was a deadbeat dad. She wrote on Instagram, in part, "My ex has not provided financial support in over a year." She added, "He stole our home, ALL of our clothes and personal belongings." Wilson even shared messages that she implied were from Francis, where he allegedly wrote things like, "The more they suffer now, the more they're going to hate you later."

Yet Francis has a different take, claiming since December 2020 that Wilson kidnapped his daughters. In April 2022, he wrote on Instagram, in part, "Abbey Wilson is currently wanted for the kidnapping of Alexandria and her sister by Mexican authorities" and claimed Wilson was abusive. He also claimed Wilson was hiding his daughters with her drug-trafficker boyfriend. However, her lawyer told the Daily Mail, "The kidnapping claim is just ridiculous. If someone physically hurts you, you move out and you don't give them your address."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

The Girls Gone Wild creator's prison time

Joe Francis has done multiple stints in jail for various reasons. For example, in 2007, The New York Times reported Francis served time for intimidating two women who brought a lawsuit against him during the negotiations of a civil case. He was also charged with criminal contempt twice, seemingly for his disrespectful attitude. 

Most notably though, in 2013, Francis was sentenced to 270 days in jail after he was convicted of false imprisonment, assault, and dissuading a witness, per the New York Post. The charges stemmed from an incident that happened in 2011, when Francis wouldn't let three women leave his home following a night of partying. One victim said Francis physically attacked her, bashing her head onto the floor. Francis didn't take his conviction well, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "Just because a jury is mentally retarded and jealous of who I am ... 'you should be in jail, you stupid idiots.'" He later apologized for his outburst, but tried justifying his comments: "Anyone who has ever been wrongfully convicted of a crime ... would be as frustrated as I am," reported the Los Angeles Times.

According to Fox News, in 2015, Francis was sentenced to jail again, pleading no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges after "Girls Gone Wild" featured underage girls. Despite his plea, Francis told the Los Angeles Times, "I never committed any crime. ... A few corrupt individuals were able to keep an innocent man in jail."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

His many legal issues

By this point, it's clear Joe Francis has quite the long rap sheet, but he's had even more legal issues than what he went to prison for. In 2003, The New York Times reported the "Girls Gone Wild" mogul was charged with more than 70 crimes during one investigation in Florida, including racketeering and drug trafficking. While Fox News reported that most of those charges were dismissed, Francis ended up in prison for a while anyway, having been found with contraband in his cell. 

By 2007, Francis was back in prison for tax evasion. According to the Justice Department, Francis had claimed more than $20 million in fake business expenses on his tax returns and used offshore accounts to hide money. The Mercury News reported that Francis had already been in jail for 301 days when he later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of filing false tax returns as well as bribing a prison worker.

Then there are the various lawsuits that have often been brought against Francis. One of his more famous ones was when casino owner Steve Wynn sued him for defamation. Francis had claimed Wynn threatened to kill him over a gambling debt, stating, via The Hollywood Reporter, "He said he would hit me in the back of the head with a shovel and bury me in a hole in the desert." The court sided with Wynn, awarding him $40 million in damages, which was later reduced to $19 million, per TMZ.

The pornographer's money troubles

Joe Francis has definitely had money troubles over the years. His wallet took a major blow in 2012 in particular, when his company, Girls Gone Wild, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, ABC News reported. Francis explained in a statement, "The only reason Girls Gone Wild has elected to file for this reorganization is to re-structure its frivolous and burdensome legal affairs." At the time, Francis had owed $10.3 million to Steve Wynn for a casino debt and was being sued by two other women for issues relating to "Girls Gone Wild."

However, Francis apparently didn't comply with the terms of his bankruptcy case, and by 2015, there was a warrant for his arrest when he didn't turn over two cars, per The Hollywood Reporter. Francis decided to flee to Mexico seemingly to avoid paying his debts, as well as more jail time. His attorney explained, "It does not appear that Francis is at risk of being extradited based on his outstanding arrest warrant."

As of April 2022, Francis was still living in Mexico, but had since sold Girls Gone Wild to a pornography company. Francis now runs a luxury estate called Casa Aramara. While a judge ruled in 2017 he couldn't profit off that business until his debts were paid, Francis still gets a lot of celebrities to vacation there. And although 20% of the estate was lost in a 2020 fire, TMZ reported Francis is somehow dropping over a million dollars to repair it.

Joe Francis' exploitation for profit

It terms of shadiness, it's worth mentioning that Joe Francis seemingly made a whole career out of exploiting others. Not only did he get his start on a TV show called "Banned from Television," which usually displayed real people's graphic deaths, "Girls Gone Wild" basically made Francis rich off mostly inebriated girls. "Girls Gone Wild Exposed" filmmaker Katinka Blackford Newman explained, via the Toronto Sun, "Behind the fun, the wet T-shirt competitions and the faux-feministic liberation centered around flashing your breasts in front of a camera, lives were being ruined."

Moreover, the documentary features women who felt they were coerced by Francis or his associates into sexual situations on-camera, not necessarily realizing their night of fun would remain in the porn world forever. One girl even admitted, via the New York Post, "It was the worst night of my life," while another claimed, "I was tricked into a child pornography film."

Francis was also notoriously nasty to the women who took legal action against him, even once serving jail time for verbally harassing two women during a civil case's negotiations, per The New York Times. In a different case, Francis infamously asked a woman, who was suing him for filming her when she was underage, on the stand if she was a prostitute, per the Hindustan Times. Even after being sentenced for child abuse and prostitution in another trial, Francis unapologetically told reporters, via The Morning Call, "I'm going to go back to making videos."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Paris Hilton's involvement in his extortion case

In 2004, Joe Francis was the victim of an over-the-top kidnapping and extortion plot and — unsurprisingly — the situation was pretty crazy. According to NBC News, it all started when Francis returned to his Bel Air home one night to find a masked man with a gun. The intruder tied Francis up and stole some of his belongings, before demanding more money, which Francis didn't have in the house. Seemingly to ensure he paid up and stayed quiet, the intruder forced Francis to make a degrading video of himself in sexual positions. Francis recalled, "He's holding a gun and a camera and making me say things."

From there, Francis was thrown in the back of his own car and driven to another location, where the suspect threatened to release the tape if Francis didn't pay him. Francis went on to work with police, making several attempts to arrange a money drop-off to catch his attacker. Eventually, a famous socialite cracked the case, having heard things on the party circuit. Francis dished, "Paris Hilton was at a party with me and she pulled me aside ... And she goes, 'Look, I know who did it.'"

The attacker was later identified as Darnell Riley, who pleaded guilty to robbery and attempted extortion. He blamed the mob for his actions, telling Page Six, "I was asked to rough him up," adding, "I worked with guys, if they told you to do something, you don't ask questions." 

The father-of-two's alleged drug abuse

Joe Francis has been accused of a lot questionable things over the years, and, in 2021, one those of things was that he was addicted to drugs. While fighting for custody of their two daughters, Francis' ex, Abbey Wilson, claimed in court documents that the "Girls Gone Wild" founder had been abusing hard drugs since 2017, naming "methamphetamines, cocaine and painkillers" specifically, per Page Six. Wilson had contended that the drugs made Francis abusive toward her and their twins. The court documents revealed, "Joseph's behavior continued to become more violent, and he never left his addiction to drugs."

Of course, Francis denied the accusations, explaining, "My ex-girlfriend just keeps making up things and lying and lying and lying. I have to defend myself." He even accused Wilson of being the one who uses drugs, telling the Daily Mail in 2022 that she lives with her drug dealer boyfriend and uses Fentanyl. He dished, "At the height of the non-vaccinated part of the pandemic she was heavy into using of these drugs." Wilson has denied this.

Whether Francis is actually an addict or not, he's been linked to drug use before. In 2007, People reported he was charged with possessing prescription pills during one of his prison stints. So with all things considered, it's pretty clear that Francis has one heck of a shady side. Yet it keeps the entrepreneur in the headlines, even if it's usually for all the wrong reasons. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).