Via America’s Lawyer: While federal lawmakers continue to grill Big Tech over the sharing of content that encourages extremism, what about content that encourages sexual exploitation and human trafficking? Attorney, author, and founder of Runaway Girl Carissa Phelps joins Mike Papantonio to explain how outlets like PornHub often turn a blind eye to child porn and rape scenes shot in hotel rooms well outside of Hollywood. What’s worse – Wall Street firms have played a major role in the growth of these practices.

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Transcript:

*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Big tech has been grilled by lawmakers over how they monitor content shared across social media platforms. But a major missing piece of the conversation is online pornography, which has become a hotbed for sexual exploitation and pure human trafficking. As major forms of federal, platforms are facing federal lawsuits, it’s time to regulate this whole, this whole issue. Seems to be taboo when it comes to Congress taking any real action. I’ve got author and founder of Runaway Girl, Carissa Phelps and by the way, she is my newest law partner. Welcome to the show. Welcome to the law, law firm. You know, I can’t, we really can’t start this without explaining your background. You were trafficked from the time you were 12 years old to about 15.

Carissa Phelps:                  Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             And in there we, we’re going to be doing interviews from, time after time, of people who’ve been trafficked. We’ve, we’ve interviewed you before. It’s a harrowing story. But after that, you ended up going to UCLA, get an MBA, getting a law degree with a specialty kind of in finances.

Carissa Phelps:                  Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             I mean, that’s, so that’s what I want to talk about here. You see everybody’s missing the fact that you got MindGeek. Okay. MindGeek is an organization that has PornHub and dozens of other porn sites underneath it. They have a right to do that. First amendment says that’s fine. I’m good with that, myself. The problem with this story is it’s not just about that, is it? Tell us, tell us how they go about getting content, content with trafficked individuals, trafficked women.

Carissa Phelps:                  So really there’s just no way of monitoring as much content as comes in to that site. So all this content comes in and there are reviewers that aren’t really able to see humanly as much content is come, is coming in. So we’ve had young girls that I’ve sat down with, who were raped and then those videos were posted online, who were unconscious, who were basically assaulted, videoed and then that’s uploaded to the, to the site. Now they have a, a kind of paid platform where they pay content contributors. So everyone’s an amateur pornographer now, and they could post things and get paid back money for it. And how they regulate who else is in the video is very, very, very shady, in terms of what we see online and what they’ve answered too, in terms of other hearings.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. They, they get a deal don’t they? PornHub and MindGeek gets a deal if a trafficker, which they’re well aware. There’s no question in my mind, they know exactly what goes on because they see the numbers. They have a way to file who’s the, who are the people posting this. Trafficker takes five girls, most of the time underage, to a hotel room. They say, do this sex act, do this sex act. They even rape some of these sex trafficked girls in the room. That then is, is sent to PornHub. PornHub under the law has a responsibility to find out, who are these people? What’s going on? Are these traffic, is this being done against their will? It’s not like somebody in LA who is saying, you know, I’m in the porn business, I do this for a living. I’m going to get paid. These people, not only do they get paid, they get victimized and then the trafficker gets paid all of this money. Is that kind of how it works?

Carissa Phelps:                  That is, although I think trafficking happens across the spectrum, even in some of those places in LA and in San Fernando Valley or in other places as well. I think trafficking can happen anywhere at any time. But these, these, these occurrences that you’re talking about where girls and victims are taken, boys too, young men are taken against their will. They’re drugged, they’re forced into sex acts that are then posted on these pornography sites that PornHub profits off of is happening. It is occurring and we are getting reports of it, absolutely.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. I mean, so we, we know, New York Times, by the way, did a great example. They did a great story on a site that is falling underneath, MindGeeks, MindGeeks heading where they found out that, that girls were being raped. Right on, you know, they knew that girls were being raped. They played it anyway. The child that was raped, the person that was raped, just kind of disappears. Now, here’s the point. You have Wall Street is now in this business. They’ve been in this business for a long time, Fortress, Fortress Investment. I mean, if you want to, if you want a real look at this company, just, just Google Fortress Investment. Fortress Investment brags about, they will do things that other people won’t do. Like we will, we know what’s going on. We know what’s going on with the, with the trafficking. Full disclosure, I’m getting ready to sue Fortress as an agent for, for MindGeek and vice versa. So we’re bringing Fortress into the lawsuit because they’re funding this.

Carissa Phelps:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             And they, they should know what they’re doing. It’s not just them, it’s Chase. Who else is?

Carissa Phelps:                  Yeah. I mean, JP Morgan, Cornell University, these, and a couple of very smart people in terms of investments and how to structure them, tried to hide that information. It was actually a pornographer that exposed it. In 2013 Fox businesses did a story on it. This information has been out there and now investors, and we want to say woke investors, people who are conscious and know what they’re doing with their capital, need to take a look at where they’re putting their money and where Fortress is putting their money, which is in pornography and which is, is involved in trafficking.

Mike Papantonio:             This isn’t a pornography story here. I mean, this is not a pornography story. This is a trafficking story. They know exactly what goes on. There’s no guesswork. Now this company, when you Google Fortress, you see they’ve got hundreds and hundreds of employees, they brag about, we’ve got offices here. We’ve got offices there. We’re big. We’re bigger than life. Okay. Well, they’re so big that they, they did, I can promise you some due diligence had to be done on this. What did they, they, they loaned MindGeek, was it over $300 million. Wasn’t it?

Carissa Phelps:                  Altogether, they were part of a consortium of investors that came together for about $326 million into this group. And yes, loaned them at high rates of return to measure because of the risk they knew they were taking, they measured that risk and so they charged an interest rate accordingly, and made money off of this investment that was, that was based on trafficking. You’re right. It’s based on trafficking.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So as we look at this and we will bring these people in, I mean, you, you see the connection, you, they, they have a, if they say we did due diligence, they have investors with their company. They have shareholders with their company. And you said, well, we did due diligence and really? You couldn’t find out what they were talking about in 2013 on Fox news of all places? Where they’re investing, they know what, that we know what Fortress and Chase and, and JP Morgan, even Cornell University putting money behind this and saying, oh, well, gee whiz, we just didn’t know. How ridiculous is that argument? Explain to me how out there this is, how evident it is.

Carissa Phelps:                  Well, I mean, when you take investors’ money and you say you’ve done your due diligence, then you need to have done your due diligence. Because when, when that gets hit, because you haven’t done your due, you haven’t, you haven’t explained where your investments really are going, and you’re doing harm to people with them and you put those people’s money at risk. And these investors, these limited partners, they have in their $50 billion fund, they include hardworking people who have their retirement in that, in those funds that get invested into them. So there are many Americans out there right now, many people around the world who are invested in pornography, and don’t even know it. Who are invested in trafficking and don’t even know.

Mike Papantonio:             I hate to even say, invest in pornography. We have, people have the right to put something on YouTube or porntube if they choose. That’s the first amendment in this country. But you don’t have the right to say, I’m going to add a different feature to it. We’re going to put trafficked girls on our site who are raped. Some, you know, the, the, there’s such sickness out. They want to see them raped. They want to see them beat. They want to see teenagers. There’s even some of these sites that they, they’re for toddlers. Talk about that just a little bit. How outrageous it’s become.

Carissa Phelps:                  I mean, it’s heartbreaking the level that we’ve let this go to in the United States and globally really because we’re part of this problem at this point. We’re part of this problem. And, and it’s our money again, that was invested in creating this conglomerate, this huge pornography industry, that’s harming many people.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, it’s not just, okay. Let’s take the scenario that we just gave, that you’re very aware of. You’ve seen it. You were, you were actually in, you were trafficked from the 12 year, time you were 12 to 15 on and off. In there, you saw exactly what we’re talking about. Let’s get a hotel room, right? Let’s bring our trafficked girls into the hotel room. Let’s, oh yeah, let’s let everybody know they’re here and there, people come by one by one for these trafficked girls. These girls aren’t there because they want to be, they’re trafficked, they’re slaves, and then long comes, you know, the, the internet, pornography on the internet. Well, we can make more money there. It’s not just that we’re having them available for these guys. We can do some filming. This is, you know what, it’s more, it’s, it’s more of a moneymaker than heroin or drugs or anything like that because here you’re using the commodity again and again. Right?

Carissa Phelps:                  Again and again and again, and that’s the, that’s the harm that’s done that we see 10 years down the road, we see it into the future of the people who are harmed in this, in the human trafficking and in pornography that condones human trafficking, that allows for it, is human trafficking.

Mike Papantonio:             They’re actually situations where they see the same hotel room, right? Same hotel says, you can do this. You can do this and, and, you know, go to it. That’s part of the problem too, isn’t it?

Carissa Phelps:                  Yeah. Or same, same hotel looking, same design, same design standards. So, you know, it’s the same hotel brand or property that they’re being taken to. And it will be different for different types of traffickers that are taking people to different locations, for sure.

Mike Papantonio:             You’re involved in lawsuits also where you’re suing hotels.

Carissa Phelps:                  Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             Talk about that just briefly.

Carissa Phelps:                  Some, some hotels, you know, have been found to have encouraged it, to have employees that encourage it. But mostly we’re looking at the brands that have known it was happening, have gone out and sought, you know, basically media and attention for doing something about it, but then really haven’t done anything about it. And so they continue to open up these spaces where victims are held, where they’re harmed, where they’re trafficked, where they’re brutalized, and it’s because of that space. Again, but for having that space, that person wouldn’t be able to be trafficked in that way.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. One thing is that is very evident in all these, these lenders aren’t just lenders. I think he pointed that out. They know they’re making a risky loan in a lot of ways. I mean, who are the, there’s a guy named Bergemar. They don’t even know who this guy is. Talk about that.

Carissa Phelps:                  No. The secrecy behind this, this company that is supposed to be, and being invested in by a public company that’s investing in them is, is really alarming because they don’t want to use their real names. They don’t want to put information out there about themselves and about who they are and about what they’re investing in. And so he’s one of them that, that is the largest owner that would, should, should, because of the ties to a public company and public money, have to tell us who they are.

Mike Papantonio:             Have some fun. Go online in Google Bernard Bergemar, Bernard Bergemar. Okay. What is Bernard Bergemar? First of all, we know Bernard Bergemar has a relationship with Fortress. They’ve come down and they’ve shaken his hand. They said, yeah, we want to do business. This guy is such a slime ball, you can’t even find anything about him and they cover it up. They do every effort. But if you were to Google, Bernard Bergemar has the biggest porn business in the world, probably, and part of that is the human trafficking part.

Carissa Phelps::                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             But if you were to Google him, we don’t know anything about him, do we?

Carissa Phelps:                  Right. And that, I mean, it’s so appalling because they put out so much private information about individuals. You hear young girls and parents beg for information to be taken off of their site, yet they hide in all of this secrecy.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Carissa, thank you for joining me. We got a lot of lawsuits coming.

Carissa Phelps:                  Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             We’re gonna to get a lot closer to understanding what fortress did here, aren’t we?

Carissa Phelps:                  Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             And we’re going to take some tough depositions. That’s my promise, that is my promise.

Carissa Phelps:                  Thank you, Mike.

Mike Papantonio:             Thank you for joining me. Okay.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.