The Apopka home where a reality television show was being filmed illegally also was used earlier this year to broadcast live streaming sex acts for an adult-entertainment Web site, police said.
Production of the never-aired Pauper to Princess show, about downtrodden women who wished to be transformed, came to a halt during the weekend after four women fled the home and called police. They claimed the show's producer, 33-year-old Marc Brilleman, held them against their will and prevented them from calling their families.
Brilleman was arrested and charged with false imprisonment and was later released on bond.
Dream House Productions, run by a trio of Seminole County investors who operated both the reality show and the live online porn site, began filming its Princess show in February after holding two auditions at the University of Central Florida and Cowboys Orlando, a country-themed bar.
The show's Web site promised the winner would receive $50,000, the use of a BMW sedan for a year and a modeling contract.
"Our goal is to make these girls somebody. To help them grow physically, mentally and spiritually," intones an adult male voice on a promotional trailer on the show's Web site. "It is about changing our eight paupers' lives so that they can change the world."
Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation officials say the house on April Lane had been on their radar for months.
"We got a tip about four months ago that this was being peddled on the Internet as the X-Rated Dream House," said MBI Commander Paul Zambouros. "It had Web cameras all over the house," which could be viewed for a fee.
The site shut down almost as soon as MBI undercover agents subscribed to it, Zambouros said. Shortly after that, the production company decided to shoot the reality TV show.
Whatever was being filmed in the residence was violating city rules, according to Apopka police.
Dream House Productions apparently never approached Apopka City Hall, which routes all requests to film in the city through the Economic Development Commission of Mid Florida Inc.'s Motion Picture and Television divisions, said police Chief Chuck Vavrek.
Pauper to Princess' executive producer James C. Johnson said he approached various agencies, but staffers told him no permission was needed to conduct a commercial operation in the residential neighborhood.
Contestant speaks out
Brittany Pranther, the show's youngest contestant, thought a bit of good luck had graced her when she was chosen for the show. She was promised $500 a week during the 13 weeks of filming, she said.
Pranther, 19, wanted to win the prize money to help her disabled mother, Natalie, get better health care, she said. Her mother has suffered four strokes and two heart attacks in the past five years, leaving her unable to work.
Because Pranther and the other contestants were never paid the $500 a week she said they were promised in their contracts, she lost her car. Her mother's eviction notice gave her until today to get out of her rented Orlando home.
"If anything, it made us worse," Pranther said of the show meant to raise her self-esteem. "I feel more hurt because he knew that we all grew up with that kind of past, and he did it again."
She is now working 16-hour days at two jobs, trying to get back on her feet.
Mark NeJame, an Orlando attorney representing Johnson, said the contracts clearly stated that the women would be paid $500 a week, which would kick in after the sixth week of work. He presented a contract Monday stating that, and also that the top three finishers would receive a bonus of $1,000 after the 13-week commitment. The show was being made, NeJame said, in the hopes that a network would pick it up at some point, but no deal had been reached.
Johnson hired NeJame on Monday after Johnson said the contestants broke their contracts with him and were not telling the truth about the show.
Pranther said the contestants became wary of the show's legitimacy in recent weeks after inadvertently discovering a sex tape on a memory card in one of the production company's cameras. Until then, the women had attended modeling classes, etiquette training and worked out with a personal trainer at a Bally's gym near Orlando. They even performed community service at the local Ronald McDonald House.
"For the most part, they seemed pretty legit," Pranther said, adding that businesses would shut down and allow them to film in private. Pranther and two other women left the show voluntarily last week after finding the tape.
On Saturday, MBI's vice squad responded to the house at the request of Apopka police to determine if the young women had been held against their will as sex slaves.
"One of the girls hit the wrong button on the memory card and they saw their chaperone" . . . having sex with another woman on the kitchen counter, Zambouros said. "The girls were shocked. They said, 'Oh, my God, that's where we eat breakfast.' "
That chaperone, Tamika Jackson, 27, said Monday evening that she told the girls weeks ago about her "indiscretion," and they told her they respected her nonetheless.
"There's no dispute that an adult Web site was streaming for a short time," NeJame said. But the previous use of the house had nothing to do with the G-rated reality TV show being filmed there until Saturday, he said.