February 3, 2009 / 1:46 AM / 10 years ago

"Girls Gone Wild" creator arrested in LA

"Girls Gone Wild" video series producer Joe Francis arrives at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles July 21, 2008. A Los Angeles court on Monday issued an arrest warrant for Francis for failing to appear at a hearing in a tax evasion case. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis was arrested by U.S. marshals on Monday when he arrived five hours late to a court hearing over a request by his law firm to withdraw as his legal counsel in a tax case.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero issued a warrant for Francis’ arrest on Monday morning, when he failed to appear for the hearing at the set time, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Francis finally arrived at the hearing in the afternoon, indicating he was suffering from the flu, and U.S. marshals arrested him, said defense attorney Melissa Weinberger.

Weinberger said that she would try to have Francis released after he is processed.

Francis became a multimillionaire by selling the “Girls Gone Wild” videos of young women baring their breasts, usually at parties with free-flowing alcohol. He could not be reached for comment on Monday.

He is facing charges in a tax evasion case which was filed in 2007 by authorities in Nevada but transferred to L.A. because that is where he lives.

Francis is accused of failing to pay taxes on more than $20 million in business expenses. The tax trial is due to start in March. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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