Backpage.com Founders Charged With Facilitating Prostitution And Laundering Money
15 April, 2018, 06:23 | Author: Brenda Erickson
"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", Attorney General Paxton said.
"For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike", U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "But this illegality stops right now".
Larkin, Lacey, and five other defendants were charged Monday with knowingly facilitating prostitution-related crimes, as well as money laundering for their work at Backpage. The guilty pleas are the latest in a cascade of developments in the last week against the company founded by the former owners of the Village Voice in New York City, Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68.
Backpage was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies on April 6, according to a notice on the site.
Backpage.com and its affiliated websites were seized on Friday by US federal law enforcement authorities and taken off the internet.
State prosecutors changed tack previous year, filing almost 40 new money laundering charges against Ferrer, Larkin and Lacey.
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Although he has agreed to testify against other executives at Backpage, the California plea agreement indicates that Ferrer will face up to five years in prison; sentences handed down in Arizona and Texas would run along the same time period.
The statement did not state, however, where the pleas were entered or if they were entered in Texas. Ferrer's plea agreement, and the corporate plea agreements, also consent to the forfeiture of certain assets and items of property, including various domain names associated with the Backpage website.
A co-founder of the advertising site Backpage.com will remain jailed through the weekend in Arizona on charges of facilitating prostitution. Ferrer also agreed to cooperate in the ongoing California prosecution against the founders who have not pleaded guilty.
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. This comes less than a week after the attorney general's office assisted the Department of Justice with permanently shutting down the website. The three deny the state charges. The bill would also enable state and local authorities to prosecute websites that break federal sex trafficking laws.
Paxton's office previously arrested Ferrer in Houston in 2016 and executed a search warrant at his Dallas home. 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".
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