Washington state prosecutors are using state consumer protection laws to go after a man — already facing multiple criminal charges of rape — that they claim spent years misleading women about his job, and even his gender, with the goal of misleading women into sleeping with him in exchange for a non-existent shot at stardom.
The complaint [PDF] filed yesterday by the office of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson accuses a man named Michael-Jon Matthew Hickey of using a string of fake profiles and bogus talent agencies to convince women on Facebook that he was a talent recruiter for the adult entertainment industry.
Prosecutors say Hickey not only fabricated a number of agency names — like “New Seattle Talent,” “West Coast Talent Inc.,” “Casting Seattle,” “FMH Modeling,” “Seattle Talent,” and “Active Entertainment” — but that he also posed as a female talent recruiter — named “Deja Stwalley” for some reason — for these nonexistent companies.
The idea, according to the lawsuit, was that the fictional Ms. Stwalley operated a female-friendly “woman-founded and woman-owned” agency that took the “talent’s safety and welfare seriously.”
Hickey allegedly identified women between the ages of 17 and 25 online, and then reached out to them via Facebook while pretending to be Deja Stwalley, using a photo of a woman who prosecutors say Hickey met while visiting Washington, D.C., and who had nothing to do with this alleged scam. He told these women that he could hook them up with an audition for a local independent adult film studio, where they could earn as much as $3,500 per day.
That “audition,” was described as an “attitude test” to the hopeful erotic entertainers, but in reality it consisted of an interview, a nude photo shoot, and then performing sex acts on “one of our specially chosen ‘hunks’,” who just happened to be — according to the prosecution — Mr. Hickey.
From the “Who Wants To Be A Pornstar?” page on one of Hickey’s sites (recovered via Internet Archive):
Seattle publication The Stranger — where Hickey was a freelancer until, it appears, 2010 — has done some great, if terrifying, in-depth reporting on these “auditions,” with details from some of the women who have accused Hickey of rape. Hickey has also written for other well-known sites like TechCrunch, Cnet, and our former corporate sibling Gizmodo, though not for quite some time.
The state alleges that Hickey — via the Stwalley character — claimed connections to multiple adult producers and studios. He didn’t even charge for the “audition” because of the supposed retainer fees he received from these production companies. And yet, according to the state, Hickey never endeavored to find any actual paying work for these women.
In an apparent effort to make the Deja Stwalley appear more legitimate, the state claims the Hickey went to great lengths, creating websites and email addresses for his fake businesses, obtaining a Google Voice phone number with a Las Vegas area code, and creating a second fictional female “Chrissy Baaten” — a former happy client of Stwalley’s who not only provided a ringing endorsement, but allegedly also advised the hopefuls that they should be shooting additional photos with Hickey “every six months at least.”
To drive home the artificiality of the Baaten profile, the complaint notes that this account was registered using the email address “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The complaint includes this screengrab of a Facebook Messenger conversation between “Baaten” and one of Hickey’s hopeful auditioners:
The state alleges that Hickey violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting that Deja Stwalley was a real person with a legitimate talent-recruiting business; that Chrissy Baaten was a real adult entertainer who had obtained work through Stwalley’s company; that going through Hickey’s audition process would somehow lead to paying employment; that Hickey is a professional photographer who created portfolios for hopeful models — all for the alleged purposed of obtaining nude images of women and having sexual intercourse.
Prosecutors also allege violations of the state’s Commercial Electronic Mail Act, which prohibits internet users in Washington from lying about their identity online in order to obtain sensitive personal information about others.
Hickey could face financial penalties of $2,000 per violation, with each incident being a single violation. Depending on the number of women he allegedly deceived, that could be a significant amount of money.
That’s why the state is asking anyone who may have been a victim of this scam to call the state’s investigator at (206) 389-3850 or email them at CharlannS@ATG.WA.GOV.
These civil charges are merely icing on the cake compared to the criminal charges Hickey has already been arrested for. Shortly after Thanksgiving Hickey entered not guilty pleas to all three counts of rape that he’s currently facing.