Backpage.com Made $500 Million From Prostitution, Say Prosecutors
14 April, 2018, 20:15 | Author: Diane Mills
"It is my honest hope that my client's tenacity and today's news of Backpage.com's acknowledgment of its guilt in facilitating human trafficking will encourage other survivors of human trafficking to come forward, tell their stories, and hold wrongdoers accountable", he said. In 2015, the indictment said, credit card companies stopped processing payments for Backpage.com and closed the site's bank accounts out of "concern they were being used for illegal purposes".
An indictment filed in Arizona accuses seven individuals tied to Backpage.com with 93 criminal counts, including money laundering and operating a website to facilitate prostitution.
Ferrer has also agreed in his California plea to take down every Backpage-affiliated website that he can within five days and forfeit all Backpage-related domains within 14 days.
"Taking down Backpage and obtaining a criminal conviction for the company and its CEO represents a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world", Paxton said in a written statement.
While many have lauded the charges as a blow to prostitution and human sex trafficking, many critics have argued that banning the site, which was commonly used to solicit sex, will now force women to sell themselves on the streets.
Lacey and Larkin also earlier pleaded not guilty in California after Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Larry Brown past year allowed the state to continue with money laundering charges.
In the Arizona plea, Ferrer acknowledged knowing that a great majority of Backpage.com's ads were for sex services.
In addition to those pleas, federal prosecutors in Arizona announced Thursday Backpage.com and CEO Carl Ferrer had pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on April 5.
Paxton's office previously arrested Ferrer in Houston in 2016 and executed a search warrant at his Dallas home.
He will serve no more than five years in a state prison under the plea agreement or he could pay a fine of $250,000. Backpage was owned by a Dutch-based company.
Paxton called the website the "largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world".
Ferrer also agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement. It came three days after Backpage was seized - its homepage now displays a notice that it was seized under an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.
Ferrer further admitted that he conspired with other Backpage principals to find ways to knowingly facilitate the state-law prostitution crimes being committed by Backpage's customers.
"I'm pleased that Congress has taken additional steps by passing my SESTA legislation to let sex trafficking victims seek justice and allow state and local law enforcement to swiftly prosecute websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws", Portman said.
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