Three people have been indicted by a grand jury for their alleged roles in a prostitution ring operating out of North Hollywood, in which models were pressured or coerced to have sex for money.
On Tuesday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a grand jury indictment against the three men who ran the prostitution operation through a company The Luxury Companion and a pornographic modeling agency called LA Direct Models.
The three defendants, Karine Michmichian, Dwight Cunningham and Derek Hay, were formally charged in March 2020 on charges of pimping and pandering. Initially charged with 12 felony counts, that number has since risen to 20 with the inclusion of charges for conspiracy, money laundering and perjury.
Michmichian and Cunningham are accused of using Hay’s prominent pornography talent company to find women to engage in sex with paying customers. In exchange, Michmichian and Cunningham received a cut of the profits, the California AG’s Office says. Hundreds of sexual encounters were set up through the scheme, charging documents state.
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, then-California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at the time of their arrest.
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 at the time.
Five women were interviewed during the investigation into the case and are identified in the criminal complaint by first name only.
While the indictment alleges that most of the felonies took place from 2017 through 2018, the Grand Jury also found there was evidence that instances of conspiracy and perjury were committed as recently as 2022.
All three defendants appeared in a downtown Los Angeles court Monday to face the indictment. Each entered not-guilty pleas, according to Bonta.
Their next court date is set for April 25.
To read the 26-page indictment in its entirety, click here.
In a news release announcing the grand jury charges, Bonta vowed that his office would seek justice for sex crimes victims and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.
“Our investigators and prosecutors remain steadfast in their efforts to fight for public safety on behalf of the people of our state. In this case, my office has successfully demonstrated to a grand jury that there is sufficient evidence to put the defendants to trial. We won’t rest until we’ve secured justice,” Bonta said.
Hay, who himself is a former pornographic actor, is listed in documents as the founder of LA Direct Models. Despite his multiple felony charges, the company is still operating, with an active presence on social media and on its website, although his current role with the company is unclear.