Mantra Films, the company that produces the racy "Girls Gone Wild" video series, has filed suit against the company’s former CFO, accusing him of conspiring with two other former executives to embezzle millions of dollars.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Mantra Films owner Joe Francis claims that the tax evasion charges he has faced from the IRS stem from a conspiracy between former CFO Michael Barrett and the company’s former chief technology officer, Roman Pelikh, and vice president of operations Will L’Heureux. Francis has long blamed his accountant since he was arrested on tax evasion charges in 2007, accusing the accountant of trying to get money from the IRS’s whistleblower program (see ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Founder Fights Tax Charges). Now he is accusing the former CFO of conspiring with Pelikh and L’Heureux to defraud Mantra by forming a series of companies through which they could bilk Francis out of millions of dollars. 

Using shadow companies doing business as WMR Marketing, named after the first letters of the three former executives’ names — William, Michael and Roman — CPI Telecom, Western PC Professionals and Office Trade Center, the men allegedly filed and then approved phony invoices they wrote themselves. The lawsuit also accuses Pelikh of filing hundreds of thousands of dollars in false expense reports, for which he reimbursed himself through the company payroll.

Mantra Films has filed a report with the Santa Monica Police Department, which is investigating the case, but so far, no arrests have been made. In addition, Mantra Films has filed suit against the three conspirators, seeking millions in damages.

“We believe there is substantial evidence to support allegations of embezzlement in the complaint, and Mantra Films intends to prosecute this suit vigorously,” said Mantra attorney David Schack of the law firm K&L Gates. “Mantra will also cooperate with the investigation by the Santa Monica Police Department in this matter.”

In June, a security software company, CyberDefender, announced that it had hired Barrett as vice president of finance and accounting, but he could not be reached at the company.

Francis, for his part, faces up to 10 years in prison on tax evasion charges. His trial is scheduled for October.

Along with his tax problems, Francis has also been in the news lately for getting into a fight at a Los Angeles nightclub last month with Brody Jenner of the reality TV series “The Hills” and his girlfriend Jayde Nicole, the 2008 Playboy Playmate of the Year. Nicole accused Francis of throwing her to the ground by her hair and punching her, but Francis denied it and claims Jenner assaulted him and tore off his shirt.


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