Three people have been charged with 12 counts in an illegal prostitution operation out of North Hollywood in which models were pressured to have sex for money, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Thursday.
Karine Michmichian, Dwight Cunningham, and Derek Hay face charges of pimping and pandering.
Officials allege that Michmichian and Cunningham worked through a company called The Luxury Companion to solicit women for prostitution from Hays’ pornography agency, LA Direct Models.
Between 2017 and 2018, Hay allegedly introduced of female clients to Michmichian and Cunningham for the purpose of prostitution, according to the criminal complaint filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The defendants allegedly helped set up hundreds of sexual encounters involving models employed by Hay and instructed the women to secure payment ahead of time, Becerra said during a news conference Thursday.
Michmichian and Cunningham allegedly benefited from those encounters by those sexual encounters by taking a “cut” of the proceeds.
In at least one case, Michmichian and Cunningham allegedly told a model they could secure a film shoot with a well-known porn producer in exchange for working with them, Becerra said.
In another incident, Hay allegedly pressured one of his clients into prostitution by using exclusivity clauses in a contract to limit her access to work in porn films.
An investigation into Hay began in 2018, Becerra said.
Five women were interviewed during the investigation into the case and are identified in the criminal complaint by first name only.
“Exploiting young women takes a cold, hollow heart,” the attorney general said.
Cunningham was arrested in North Hollywood on Wednesday and is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday. He remains in the custody on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on $105,000 bail. Michmichian and Hay have not been taken into custody, but a warrant has been issued for their arrests.
Officials asked anyone who believes they may have been exploited by the defendants to come forward by calling the case hotline at 323-765-2099.