A former teen beauty queen whose career was upended when she appeared in online pornography says she was sex trafficked and raped at the behest of a notorious porn producer.
Kristy Althaus, a runner-up in the 2012 Miss Teen Colorado USA pageant, made the horrifying allegations in a new federal lawsuit against a complex web of related companies, including Aylo, formerly known as MindGeek (the parent company of PornHub), and Ethical Capital Partners, a private equity firm that recently acquired Aylo.
She claims that she was conned into filming nonconsensual sex scenes by Michael Pratt, owner of now-shuttered company Girls Do Porn, who is awaiting extradition from Spain on charges of sex trafficking. Althaus says she was raped, drugged, physically abused and blackmailed by Pratt and his associates.
When the videos were released online with her name attached they went viral on PornHub, and Althaus says she was stripped of her pageant titles, harassed by students at her college, and recognized by strangers on the street until she suffered “severe distress and anxiety.” She lost jobs when employers discovered she’d appeared in porn and struggled to maintain healthy relationships, she says.
She even changed her name, but though the video is a decade old, the harassment hasn’t stopped, she claims in the suit.
“Unidentified men continue to approach Plaintiff’s home at all hours of the day and night,” her suit reads, “As recently as May-June 2023, Plaintiff was assaulted at her home by a self-described PornHub subscriber who confronted her about the recent removal of the subject videos from Defendants’ websites.”
Althaus is suing the adult video distributor Pornhub, as well as its Montreal-based parent company MindGeek, claiming that Girls Do Porn was “entirely sustained by MindGeek’s vast online network.” She says she reported her rape and sex trafficking to MindGeek but they chose to ignore it favor of generating “millions of dollars” from the content.
In 2020, Girls Do Porn was ordered to pay $12.8 million in damages, after a class-action lawsuit by 22 women who accused the company of coercing and defrauding them. The FBI charged Pratt and three associates with federal sex trafficking offenses in October 2022. Pratt fled the U.S. and was arrested in Spain two months later.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Aylo declined to comment on the litigation, but said they looked forward to “the facts being fully and fairly aired” in court.
“The safety of our community is our number one priority, so we are proud to have instituted Trust and Safety policies that surpass those of any other major user-generated platform on the internet,” Aylo said in a statement. “Our compliance program has helped us set the standard for the tech industry, and we are committed to remaining at the forefront of this important area.”
PornHub and Ethical Capital Partners did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s not clear if Pratt has a current attorney.
Raised in Colorado, Althaus spent her teens modeling for companies like Kohl’s and Champion, and in 2012 she was the first runner-up in the Miss Teen Colorado USA pageant. After graduating high school in 2013, Althaus, then 18, began to pursue a career in modeling. She came across a Craigslist ad offering a paid modeling opportunity, and the poster offered to fly her to San Diego for a shoot, according to her suit
Little did Althaus know that she was one of hundreds of women about to be lured into the GirlsDoPorn empire, a California-based adult subscription service formed in 2006. The company specialized in producing X-rated videos of young women between 18 and 22, promising viewers the clips were “the one and only time [the girls] do porn.”
Pratt’s company would post ads for models on Craigslist, fly young women out to San Diego and then coerce them into appearing in pornographic films that they promised would be sold only on DVD to private collectors and small video stores outside the United States, according to a separate class-action suit. They were also promised anonymity, but the videos were sold and distributed across the internet, ending up on some of the world’s biggest porn sites, often with their real names attached, the class-action suit said.
Girls Do Porn was particularly interested in Althaus because of her beauty pageant background, her suit alleges. It was only after Pratt and associate Andre Garcia picked her up from the airport that she discovered they wanted her to do an adult shoot, she says. When she refused, the suit claims, Pratt and Garcia plied her with “booze and pills to soften her reluctance.”
Althaus remembers being promised the video would only be on DVD and only available in Australia, the suit says.
Pratt and Garcia took Althaus to a hotel room filled with camera equipment, took her phone away, “forced” her to perform sexual acts on film while intoxicated, she alleges
The nine-hour shoot included a “protracted filming” of Althaus being raped by Garcia, the suit says. The men refused to stop even when Althaus started bleeding and gave her more alcohol and Xanax, the suit alleges.
Althaus’ account echoes many of those given by the Jane Does who filed suit in 2019. They described abusive behavior at shoots that left the women injured and bruised. Others described being paid less than they had been promised.
After she started college in August 2013, Pratt allegedly began pressuring her to make more videos, threatening to release the footage they already had. Texts included in the suit contain threats against Althaus and her family and friends: “You better be here by noon shoot 2tomorrow or your graveyard.”
Althaus says she agreed to another shoot and that Pratt and Garcia once again gave her alcohol, marijuana and Xanax and spiked her drink with oxycodone. Pratt was so enraged by her pleas to stop that he broke a hotel lamp and flashed a gun when she fled to the bathroom, the suit alleges.
When the shoot was over, Pratt allegedly drove Althaus to his house, forced her to perform oral sex on him in the car, stuck his gun into her mouth, and repeatedly assaulted her.
An attorney for Garcia did not respond to a request for comment. He is serving a 20-year sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of sex trafficking in November 2020.
According to the suit, in January 2014, Althaus was sitting in a class at college when she got a text message from an unknown number.
“Told you bitch,” it read.
A friend texted shortly after to tell Althaus the videos of her were live on Twitter, PornHub and other porn websites, she says.
Girls Do Porn and MindGeek pursued an “aggressive marketing strategy” to promote additional videos of Althaus, her suit claims, She says she contacted MindGeek “multiple times” to tell them the clips were being distributed with her consent. MindGeek threatened Althaus with legal action if she continued trying to get them removed, according to the suit
When the Department of Justice seized and shut down Girls Do Porn in 2019, MindGeek removed videos of Althaus, but it was temporary. Since then, MindGeek has reposted videos of Althaus made by Girls Do Porn, her suit alleges.
It is not the first suit that has taken aim at MindGeek over its conduct with Girls Do Porn. In December 2020, 40 women sued MindGeek alleging the business had knowingly profited from its relationship with Pratt’s company, demanding $80 million in damages. “MindGeek has received ill-gotten gains by selling, marketing and exploiting videos featuring the Plaintiffs’ likenesses,” their suit alleged. The case was settled out of court and the terms kept “confidential,” according to Vice.
Following the settlement, MindGeek released a statement saying it had “no tolerance” for illegal content on their platforms, and had implemented a “comprehensive, industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate any illegal material.”
In March MindGeek was acquired by private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners and had its name changed to Aylo. ECP said in a press release at the time that it was “investing in MindGeek as the internet leader in fighting illegal online content.”
Althaus’ suit accuses Aylo and ECP of aiding and abetting sex trafficking, profiting from sex trafficking and advertising a victim of sex trafficking.
“These unlawful videos generated millions of dollars in revenue for GirlsDoPorn and MindGeek at the expense of countless young women’s lives,” Althaus’ suit claims.