The founder of onetime Santa Monica Internet highflier Digital Entertainment Network pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of transporting five underage boys across state lines to commit illegal sex acts.
Marc Collins-Rector entered the plea in federal court in New Jersey, resolving criminal charges filed by U.S. attorneys there and in Los Angeles.
With credit for time served while fighting extradition from Spain and since his return to the U.S. last fall, Collins-Rector is likely to be freed in as little as four months, said his attorney, public defender David Schafer. He and prosecutor Rodrigo Castro-Silva said sentencing guidelines put the total time to be served at 27 to 33 months.
In the plea agreement to resolve four charges filed in Los Angeles, Rector admitted plying the boys with travel, expensive gifts and payments of as much as $600 a week from 1995 to 1999. By the end of that period, Digital Entertainment Network was growing into a 300-employee firm backed by $60 million from the likes of Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., and General Electric Co.'s NBC.
DEN created short episodic videos for the Web aimed at teenagers and young adults until its collapse in 2000.
An investigation by The Times in 2000 found that teenage employees were pressed into taking social trips and attending parties with DEN Chairman Collins-Rector and executives Chad Shackley and Brock Pierce. Collins-Rector left the country and was arrested in Spain two years later, after his indictment in New Jersey.
“This was a fair resolution for the government and for the victims,” Castro-Silva said. “He is going to have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.”