Courthouse News Service
April 30, 2012
LOS ANGELES) - A model claims in Federal Court that she was drugged and raped by two men who filmed the crime and sold it as pornography, and that defendant Internet Brands Inc. dba ModelMayhem.com did nothing to stop it.
Jane Doe No. 14 claims that Internet Brands Inc. owns and operates more than 100 websites, including ModelMayhem.com, where she had an account to market herself as a model. She sued the company and its dba, and only those two defendants, for negligence.
The headings of the three major sections of the complaint tell the story: "Internet Brands Knew of the Rape Scheme Targeting Modelmayhem.com Users ... Jane Doe was Raped in the Modelmayhem.com Scheme ... [and] Internet Brands Purposely Kept Modelmayhem.com Users in the Dark About the Rape Scheme."
Doe says in her complaint that the defendants were aware that Emerson Callum and Lavont Flanders mined their websites looking for victims.
Both men were convicted in December 2011 of drugging women and videotaping themselves having sex with them to sell as pornography. A Miami federal judge in February sentenced them to life in prison.
Flanders is a former Miami Beach police officer who had more than a dozen aliases in court records, according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
"At all relevant times, Internet Brands knew that Jane Doe was typical of the women who were targeted and horrifically raped in the scheme," Doe says in her complaint.
As indicated by "No. 14," many other women have made similar allegations.
Jane Doe 14 claims that Flanders contacted her in February 2011 and lured her to South Florida for a phony modeling audition. She claims that Callum and Flanders drugged her with a date-rape drug and that Callum raped her while Flanders videotaped the crime.
"The next morning, Jane Doe woke up in her hotel room feeling disoriented, sick and confused. Jane Doe then noticed that her mouth was swollen and that there was blood in her vaginal area and anal area, as well as blood in the bathtub," the complaint states.
It continues: "Jane Doe contacted the police and was taken by police to the hospital where she was examined and given blood tests. The blood tests revealed that Jane Doe had benzodiazepine in her blood stream. Upon information and belief, benzodiazepine is a common 'date rape' drug that, when combined with alcohol, has the effect of causing one to 'black out,' with the inability to control one's actions or remember anything that occurred while under the influence.
"Benzodiazepine also has the unique effect of allowing someone under the influence to appear normal and coherent, despite being unable to control one's actions or remember what occurred."
According to the complaint, the two men were first arrested in 2007 for using ModelMayhem.com to lure and victimize at least five women. The complaint states that Internet Brands bought ModelMayhem.com from Donald and Taylor Waitt in 2008, and in 2010, Internet Brands sued the Waitts in Los Angeles Federal Court, claiming that the Waitts had failed to disclose the potential for lawsuits against ModelMayhem because of the actions of the rapists.
"Accordingly, on Internet Brands' own admission, it had actual knowledge no later than Aug. 2010 that:
"a. ModelMayhem.com was being used as a means of luring unsuspecting female ModelMayhem.com users, like Jane Doe, to drug and rape them;
"b. Lavont Flanders and Emerson Callum, in particular, had used ModelMayhem.com on multiple occasions to lure unsuspecting women to drug, rape and videotape them for pornography; and
"c. Flanders and Callum used ModelMayhem.com as an essential element of the scheme, horrifically victimizing ModelMayhem.com's members," the complaint states.
Doe 14 claims that Internet Brands knew enough to stop the attacks by warning ModelMayhem.com users about Flanders and Callum, but chose to do nothing.
"With this actual knowledge, Internet Brands had a duty to make adequate disclosures and warn ModelMayhem.com users of the danger presented, and inform them of the need to screen and verify the legitimacy of persons using ModelMayhem.com to contact them for modeling services," the complaint states.
"Internet Brands knew that plaintiff, in using ModelMayhem.com, was exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm from the foreseeable acts of sexual predators, particularly Callum and Flanders."
Doe claims says that Internet Brands breached its duty to warn her about the rapists' scheme and that its negligence resulted in the sexual assault - even while Internet Brands went after ModelMayhem.com's former owners for failure to disclose.
"With willful and wanton disregard for the health and safety of its users, Internet Brands brazenly sought compensation from the Waitts for failing to disclose the Flanders/Callum charges in 2008, while leaving its users vulnerably in the dark and exposed to heinous sexual batteries. Upon information and belief, Internet Brands was purposely silent to its users in an effort to evade or limit negative publicity and civil claims and liabilities arising from the acts and conduct of Flanders and Callum," Doe alleges.
She seeks more than $10 million in damages, medical expenses and lost earnings. She is represented by Kevin McGuire, of Temecula.
The Truth Behind Model Mayhem | How To Stay Safe - ModelMayhem is generally known as the MySpace spot for models, photographers, makeup artists and generally, perverts. The person behind Model Mayhem is named Tyler Adam. This is not a professional web developer nor a model, rather a guy who bought the script to create ModelMayhem, this explains why the website is full of spyware, code leaks, and constant problems. The creator behind ModelMayhem has been exposed quite a few times by former users on ModelMayhem who said that Tyler allegedly messaged them offering roles in porn films. When the users declined, Tyler removed their accounts.
Waitts respond to Internet Brands counterclaim regarding Lavont Flanders rape case in Waitt v. Internet Brands - $10-million civil lawsuit regarding breach of contract in sale of ModelMayhem.com
Trolls and mods on ModelMayhem.com viciously attack young black female model who posted Lavont Williams rape warning in forum (no trolls banned, mods locked thread, no comments allowed by models)
Old ModelMayhem.com Forum on first convictions of Model Mayhem rapists - The big warning to models should be don't accept drinks that have been prepared by someone else at a shoot. No new threads allowed for past 5 years despite ongoing criminal prosecutions and civil litigation in the news.
By MARIMER MATOS
Courthouse News Service
October 27, 2011
MIAMI (CN) - A model claims that a rapist lured her to an "audition" through the BlackPlanet.com website, then drugged and raped her and sold the video as pornography on the Internet. She says the rapist, Emerson Callum, and his accomplice, Lavont Flanders, have both been criminally indicted, and "had been arrested for rapes of other women" they also drugged.
Jane Doe No. 11 sued six corporate defendants and two people: Emerson Callum aka Edward Callum, and Lavont Flanders. She says Callum's company, defendant Miami Vibes Enterprises, is an adult video production company.
She claims that Callum and Flanders, "through the use of a false identity and deceit, contacted Jane Doe on the website BlackPlanet.com, drugged and raped Jane Doe, and distributed video of the rape for profit, through Miami Vibes Enterprises Inc."
Defendant BlackPlanet.com is an African-American social networking site which claims to have more than 15 million members.
Doe says she was lured into the scheme in January 2006, when she "received an inbox message on her BlackPlanet.com profile from a person who purported to be a female talent scout. ... The female talent scout told Jane Doe that she had viewed her profiled on BlackPlanet.com and asked if she was interested in modeling opportunities.
"Having no reason to believe that the person contacting her was not who she purported to be, and having never been warned that fraudulent solicitation by online predators was a prevalent practice on Blackplanet.com, Jane Doe gave the female talent scout her contact information and confirmed her interest in modeling."
Doe says Flanders then contacted her using the fictitious name "Antwon," saying the female talent scout had referred her to him.
Antwon/Flanders asked her to come to Miami because "he was interested in having her audition for a Bacardi modeling contract in South Florida," the complaint states.
Before her "audition," she says, "Flanders contacted Jane Doe numerous times and asked her questions about her alcohol tolerance and experience with drinking hard liquor. When asked why it was relevant, Flanders told Jane Doe that he wanted to make sure she could 'pass the audition.'"
Doe says she made the trip from her home in Jacksonville to Miami, where Flanders picked her up at her hotel "and drove her to the audition location at the Miami Vibes Enterprises Inc. office. During the audition, Jane Doe was asked to recite certain lines and take shots of Bacardi liquor. Throughout the audition, Jane Doe took approximately three shots of 'Bacardi Gold.'
"The next thing Jane Doe remembers after taking shots of liquor is waking up in Flanders' car and being dropped off at the hotel. Flanders told Jane Doe that she would hear something in the next couple of days.
"Jane Doe told her cousin, who was waiting at the hotel, that she couldn't remember what had happened, but she didn't think she got the modeling job because she could not handle the shots of liquor. Jane Doe remembers being very sleepy and 'dozing off' throughout their subsequent trip to Key West, Florida."
After she returned to Jacksonville, Doe says, she contacted the female talent scout on BlackPlanet.com, who told her that she didn't get the part.
But in May, Doe says, Flanders contacted her, saying Olympic Models wanted her to audition for a Hennessy and Bacardi modeling contract.
Again, "Jane Doe traveled to South Florida for the audition. Jane Doe was once again taken to the Miami Vibes office. During the audition, Jane Doe was told to take shots of alcohol once again and recite similar lines as before. The next thing Jane Doe remembers is being dropped off by Flanders at her uncle's house, where she was staying. Flanders told her she did really well and would hear back from them the next day.
"Jane Doe never heard back from Flanders or the female talent scout.
"In or about October 2007, Jane Doe was contacted by her agent, who asked her why she did not tell him that she appeared in pornography. Shocked and confused, Jane Doe informed her agent that she had never appeared in pornography. Jane Doe's agent informed her that there is a hardcore pornographic video of her available on the Internet.
"Jane Doe's agent purchased the pornographic video and brought it to Jane Doe's house to view. Jane Doe watched the video of her with Edward Callum, realizing for the first time that she had been raped by Callum during one of the auditions. This was the first time she ever remembered seeing Callum.
"Upon learning that Callum and Flanders had been arrested for rapes of other women whom they slipped the drug Xanax in an alcohol drink, Jane Doe went to the police station and pressed charges against them.
"Upon information and belief, Callum and Flanders likewise placed the drug Xanax in the shots of hard liquor that were consumed by Jane Doe as part of the audition. ...
"During either or both auditions, while Jane Doe was unknowingly under the influence of Xanax and alcohol, Callum raped Jane Doe while Flanders recorded the rape on video. Callum then produced and distributed the rape video for profit as hardcore pornography through his company, Miami Vibes Enterprises Inc., without the consent of Jane Doe or even the knowledge that she had been raped," according to the complaint.
She seeks punitive damages for sexual battery, privacy invasion, negligence, corporate liability and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She says both Callum and Flanders have been "criminally indicted by a federal grand jury" for the "actions that are the subject matter of this lawsuit."
The corporate defendants are Radio One Inc., Interactive One LLC, Community Connect Inc., all of them dba BlackPlanet.com, and DCash Technologies, DSYnternet Media Inc. and DSYnternet Online.
Doe is represented by Jeffrey Herman, with Herman, Mermelstein & Horowitz.
Homeland Security cop and TSA airport screener Lavont Flanders raped 50 models at ModelMayhem.com and BlackPlanet.com
By Michael E. Miller
Miami New Times
Jan 19 2012
Nicole Benson got her hair done, packed her best clothes, and jumped into her cousin's car. The 24-year-old beauty with a button nose and mocha skin had the January 2006 weekend off from her job as a Navy communications specialist in Jacksonville. She was on her way to Miami for her first modeling audition.
Benson and her cousin checked into a North Miami Beach hotel. At 9 p.m., a talent scout named Antone picked her up and drove her to a beach. He pulled out a video camera and asked her to strip down to a bikini. Then he handed her three shots out of a Bacardi bottle. All she had to do was drink the liquor and deliver her lines for a chance at a hefty modeling contract.
She woke up the next morning in the same car. As Antone dropped her off at the hotel, he told her she had fallen asleep during the audition. It would be more than a year before Benson learned the horrible truth: She had been drugged and raped on camera by two men who later sold the assault as part of a porn series called Miami's Nastiest Nymphos.
But the whole story, uncovered by New Times through records and interviews, is even more nauseating. "Antone," who was actually an ex-Miami Beach cop named Lavont Flanders Jr., should have been in jail long before assaulting Benson and at least seven other victims. Prosecutors flubbed at least two chances to put him away:
• A complaint 15 years ago by a fellow cop that Flanders had tried to solicit her 13-year-old daughter, which resulted in his firing from the Miami Beach Police Department — but no criminal charges were filed.
• A 2007 Broward County case involving at least five victims, including Benson, that stalled and was eventually dropped.
Instead of going to prison, Flanders continued drugging women so his partner could rape them on film. After a Broward judge let him and his accomplice, Emerson Callum, out on bond in 2009, the pair assaulted at least three other women until the feds finally arrested them last year and a jury convicted the two in December on 32 counts related to drugging and raping women.
"They had them, and then they let them out on the street to go back to raping women and selling their videos," says Benson, whose real name New Times agreed not to use because she is a victim of sexual assault. "Why did it take so long?"
Broward prosecutors say they did their best to convict Flanders and Callum and had no choice but to let them go. "I'm not sure anyone dropped the ball," Assistant State Attorney Dennis Siegel says. "People are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They are entitled to bond."
Despite the federal conviction, Flanders's attorney maintains his client's innocence. "These girls knew exactly what they were getting into," Christian Dunham says.
Lavont Flanders Jr. was barely out of his teens when he joined the Opa-locka police force, but he already looked like an officer, with a handsome smile and a cop mustache. A few years later, he applied to work in Miami Beach.
Soon after joining that department, Flanders struck up a friendship with Angela Raines, a records center employee. In an interview with New Times, Raines recalls Flanders saying he had connections in the modeling industry and could help her 13-year-old daughter break in.
On April 2, 1997, Flanders phoned Raines's daughter and asked if she wanted to hang out with his teenage stepsisters. Angela at first insisted on going along, but her daughter convinced her that she was fine.
Flanders drove the girl around Miami Beach in a black Mustang. Then his beeper went off. "It's Jerry of Image Modeling," he said, according to internal affairs records. He told the teen that Image was looking for a young black girl to model for an underwear ad and promised her $200 if she posed for seminude photos.
When the girl repeatedly refused, Flanders drove her home, but not before asking a favor of his passenger: Don't tell your mother about this.
Flanders's charm failed. The girl told her mom about his creepy offer, and five days later, Raines filed a complaint with her bosses. IA investigators sustained charges that Flanders had lied to them and of conduct unbecoming a police officer. He was fired in October 1997.
But prosecutors never filed criminal charges against Flanders, though soliciting a child could have landed him at least five years in prison and a place on the sex offenders list. Miami-Dade state attorney officials say their office had no record of investigating the cop. (Raines says she would have cooperated in a criminal case.)
For Flanders, the incident foreshadowed the modeling scam he would use to entrap women for another decade.
Banned from police work, Flanders took a gig in 2002 with the Transportation Security Administration, patting down travelers at Miami International Airport. He left that job in 2004 and became a county bus driver.
It's not clear when Flanders teamed up with Emerson Callum, a Jamaican porn star called "Jah-T," to drug and rape women. But the two were likely collaborating by July 1, 2004, when the first installment of Miami's Nastiest Nymphos was released.
Flanders spent his free time scouring for aspiring models on websites such as blackplanet.com. That's where he found Benson. Flanders contacted her in January 2006, pretending to be a female talent scout. Then, posing as Antone, he invited her to Miami for a "meet-and-greet."
"It was really professional," Benson remembers. "They had it so planned out, it was ridiculous."
A week later, she returned to the Magic City for her big shot. Instead, she woke up outside her hotel unable to remember anything. Her cousin drove her to Key West for a vacation but had to stop repeatedly — Benson kept vomiting and passing out. "I thought I had gotten drunk and blown my audition," she says.
She was so embarrassed that when Flanders contacted her again to promise another audition, for Hennessy whiskey, she met the con man once more. Again, she sucked down shots and blacked out. This time, Flanders dumped her at her uncle's house in Pembroke Pines.
Benson didn't know what had really happened until October 2007. That's when her boyfriend saw her face on the cover of a DVD being sold on the hood of a car outside a Miami club. Enraged, he brought it home to Benson, who was three months pregnant with their child.
"I didn't do this!" she screamed back at him. "I've never done a pornographic video."
"He didn't believe me," Benson says today. "No one did at first." Her boyfriend moved out.
Soon afterward, though, it looked like prosecutors would finally stop Flanders and Callum. In July 2007, Broward County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested the men and charged them with at least five counts each of kidnapping, sexual battery, and criminal conspiracy. Four other women had told police stories similar to Benson's. One said she had refused to do a sex scene but then passed out, according to court records. She awoke the next morning covered in her own vomit and tested positive for semen and two different date-rape drugs.
When Benson learned she wasn't alone, she went to the Miramar police and filed her own report. She sat in a roomful of cops and watched her own rape. "In the video, I'm pushing [Callum] away or I'm asleep," she says. "He's holding my hands down. My pupils are dilated. I couldn't stand up. The video was evidence."
Benson figured the predator would be locked up for good. But her ordeal wasn't over, because Broward prosecutors botched the case. In May 2009, two years after charges were filed, Judge Andrew Siegel let Flanders and Callum out on bond. Dennis Siegel, the prosecutor, says neither man was considered a flight risk or danger to the community. "I don't have any regrets about them bonding out, because that's the law."
By December 2010, most of the charges against the two men were dropped altogether. Siegel explains his office had trouble contacting victims and proving the rapes occurred in Broward. He later turned over the remaining cases to the feds. "They could do things that we just couldn't," he says.
Whatever the excuse, letting Flanders and Benson out was a mistake that would lead to at least three more rapes, according to their federal indictment. In May 2010, Flanders duped and drugged another victim for Callum. Yet another woman fell into Flanders's trap in February 2011. A last victim was raped in July.
Finally, on August 17, 2011, FBI agents arrested Flanders and Callum. The feds slapped them with 42 combined counts of fraud and sex trafficking. In court, lawyers for the two men argued that the women knew they would be in a porno and must have taken drugs themselves. But a jury convicted the porn star and the ex-cop in December. They will be sentenced February 16 and could spend life in prison. (Both have appealed the conviction.)
Flanders's old MBPD colleague Angela Raines considers her daughter lucky not to have been his first victim. "I'm just grateful," she says. "I had no idea he was such a sick individual."
Benson, meanwhile, suspects Flanders escaped punishment for so long because he's an ex-cop. She remains bitter about the missed chances and is one of three plaintiffs who have filed a civil suit against Flanders and Callum, as well as blackplanet.com, which they say should have done more to prevent the crimes.
(The website denies any culpability. "All allegations against the owners of blackplanet.com are vehemently denied," says Jeffrey Mowers, a lawyer for the company. "We are confident that the case will be resolved in our favor.")
Benson now lives in a small town near Dallas where she works in IT. Her son's father died of a heart attack before they could reconcile, and she is too wary to begin dating again. Seeing Flanders and Callum go to jail doesn't ease the pain of what happened.
"Every day I think to myself: How am I going to tell my son about this?" she says. "I have to tell him about it. He's a boy. He might come across it on his own."
By Paula McMahon
Miami Sun Sentinel
MIRAMAR, Fla. -- They were pursuing their modeling dreams, but wound up in a horrific nightmare — drugged and raped, their sexual assaults caught on video and then posted on Internet sex sites around the world and sold in porn shops.
Some of the women woke up in their cars or hotels, bleeding or covered in vomit, drugged and unable to move, remembering only snippets of being sexually abused by a strange man.
Others had no memory of the assaults and only began to piece together what happened when strangers, who tracked them down using ID cards and other information on the videos, phoned or sent them messages on Facebook claiming to be fans of their "performances."
On Thursday, several of the victims confronted Lavont Flanders Jr. and Emerson Callum at their sentencing hearing in federal court in Miami.
A federal jury last year found the two men guilty of numerous counts, including enticing the women to South Florida, knowing that fraud would be used to make the women take part in commercial sex acts. Flanders was also convicted of five counts of distributing a date rape drug to the women.
Seven women testifed at the trial, but federal prosecutors said the investigation revealed a staggering number of offenses between 2006 and 2011.
About 50 women reported similar crimes by Flanders and Callum, prosecutors told the judge. Phone records showed they contacted 100 women in the year before federal agents arrested them in August.
"I'm someone's daughter ... and I had a dream and you ruined that for me," one of the women told the convicted men.
The men "desecrated" her dreams with their "appalling act of violence," she told the judge. She said she later cut off all her hair, because she didn't want to look "too feminine."
Another of the victims spoke powerfully in court to both men.
"I am not afraid of you, either of you," she told them. "I am here because I want to look both of you in your pitiful eyes."
The woman called the men "arrogant, sick and twisted, moronic imbeciles" who left a trail of evidence that led to them. She took pride in having helped federal agents and local police track them down.
Neither man would meet her gaze as she spoke.
Prosecutors on Thursday urged U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore to sentence both men to multiple life terms in federal prison because of the unusually heinous, cruel and degrading nature of the crimes and the prolonged after-effect of the online footage.
Flanders, 41, of Miami Gardens, is a former Miami Beach police officer who was fired. He also worked for the Opa-locka police department, the Department of Homeland Security, and was a Miami-Dade Transit bus driver, according to court records.
Callum, 45, of Miami, known as "Jah-T," was a self-described porn star who produced adult videos at his Miramar business.
Flanders repeatedly posed as a female model online and enticed aspiring models from around the country to audition in South Florida. He would then contact them, claiming he was a talent scout for multinational companies.
When they flew in, or drove from other parts of Florida, Flanders would film them auditioning for a liquor commercial, tricking them into drinking the drug-laced concoctions. After they were sedated, he drove them to a Miramar warehouse and recorded Callum raping them. Both men then produced and sold the footage. They never paid the women.
Flanders and Callum were not content with their sexual degradation of the victims — investigators said they also recorded themselves making fun of the women after the assaults. Flanders told one victim to "say hello to Karen," one of the aliases he used to recruit the women.
Another woman, who couldn't testify in the trial because she was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Iraq, told the judge she had no idea what happened to her in 2007 until a strange man called her home phone and told her how to find the video by searching on Google.
Prosecutor Roy Altman told the judge the women are victimized over and over again because they know that strangers, as well as people they know, could see the video of the most humiliating moments of their lives. Some of the footage is posted on foreign website domains and prosecutors said there is no way to force the owners of those websites to remove the videos.
The veteran said she is terrified her two children, ages 4 and 8, will someday learn what happened.
"It would kill me," she said.
The two men were defiant during the sentencing hearing and their attorneys tried to shift blame to the women because some of them agreed to drink what they thought was an alcoholic drink they were being paid to promote on film. In fact, it was laced with drugs that made the women appear eerily awake and compliant though experts said they were unconscious.
State prosecutors initially charged the men in Broward County, but they were freed on bond and continued to prey on women while they were free, prosecutors said. Officials said the state charges were eventually dropped to make way for the federal case. Days after most of the state charges were dropped, Flanders filed a lawsuit against Miramar police, claiming false arrest.
Flanders and Callum spoke only briefly on Thursday, claiming they were wrongly charged with abusing minors — they weren't, and the judge said it appeared to be a manipulative ruse concocted by Flanders. The two men said they objected to their convictions and being sentenced and that they will file appeals.
Judge Moore sentenced both men to multiple life sentences, saying their crimes were precisely what enhanced sentences were designed to punish and deter.
"I categorically and emphatically reject any suggestion that these women were in any way responsible for what happened to them," the judge said. "Indeed, the effort to shift the blame to these women is shameless."
See also: Shocking abuse of women raped on porn set: