Backpage shutdown puts sex workers at risk

Katrina Barker
April 14, 2018

The chief executive of recently shuttered sex-ad website Backpage.com pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering, according to the California Attorney General's office late Thursday.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton said CEO Carl Ferrer faces up to five years in prison once he has fulfilled the terms of his plea agreement.

Visitors to backpage.com and backpage.ca, known for personal adult ads, were met on Friday with a message that stated, "backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division".

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As the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world, Backpage facilitated the sex trafficking of innocent women and children through sites it ran for 943 locations in 97 countries and 17 languages. Backpage.com removed the adult section from all of its websites last January after the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations released a report that accused the website of knowingly facilitating child sex trafficking.

In response, Ferrer admitted that he worked with his co-conspirators to find ways to fool credit card companies into believing that Backpage-associated charges were being incurred on different websites, to route Backpage-related payments and proceeds through bank accounts held in the name of seemingly unconnected entities, and to use cryptocurrency-processing companies for similar purposes.

The statement did not state, however, where the pleas were entered or if they were entered in Texas.

Five other company officials are named in the indictment. "But this illegality stops right now".

"I have always been aware that the great majority of these advertisements are, in fact, advertisements for prostitution services (which are not protected by the First Amendment and which are illegal in 49 states and in much of Nevada)".

Ferrer, along with Lacey and Larkin, had faced criminal charges for conspiracy to pimp and other related counts in California.

The most serious of the charges carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the official added.

But his attorney, Paul Cambria, told Reuters following the proceedings that US District Judge Bridget Bade had agreed to release him on $1 million bond, with home monitoring, if financial papers were in order.

The site was the dominant hub for sex workers to advertise their services, and it had come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as the United States government made efforts to crack down on sex trafficking with legislation like the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), which President Trump signed this week.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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