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'Girls Gone Wild' Founder Joe Francis Gets Plea Deal

ANTHONY McCARTNEY   11/ 6/09 02:40 PM ET   AP

Joe Francis

LOS ANGELES — A judge sentenced "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis on Friday to 301 days already served and a year of probation for filing false income tax returns and bribing Nevada jail workers.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero accepted the terms of a plea deal between the soft-porn mogul and prosecutors, who struck the agreement after learning on the eve of trial that a key witness had withheld information from them.

An ecstatic Francis politely answered questions during the hearing then turned and kissed his mother after he was sentenced.

"I think we won that one," he said after the hearing.

Francis who filmed and marketed videos of young women was indicted by a federal grand jury on tax evasion charges in 2007. He initially was accused of taking $20 million in fraudulent tax deductions.

Under the deal, Francis pleaded guilty in September to two misdemeanor counts of filing false tax returns and one count of bribing Nevada jail workers in exchange for food.

He acknowledged omitting more than $500,000 in interest income on his 2003 tax returns and said he gave more than $5,000 in goods to the jail employees.

The plea deal also required Francis to pay $250,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Otero did not restrict travel by Francis but said he must tell authorities if he intended to travel abroad.

Francis vowed to steer clear of trouble and get back to work building the "Girls Gone Wild" brand in the U.S. and abroad.

The tax case against him fizzled when his former accountant Michael Barrett told prosecutors about hundreds of e-mails that Francis is using in a lawsuit against Barrett.

Francis accuses Barrett in the pending litigation of fraudulently billing him for hundreds of thousands of dollars in phony goods and expenses.

Barrett, who had filed tax returns for Francis, had sought a reward from the IRS for pointing out alleged wrongdoing, a move that Otero told prosecutors put his credibility in serious question.

A phone message left for Barrett's attorney was not immediately returned Friday.

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Filed by Katy Hall  |