Backpage.com and CEO plead guilty to charges in Texas

Backpage.com and CEO plead guilty to charges in Texas

Backpage.com and CEO plead guilty to charges in Texas

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.

Last year, Lacey, Larkin, and website's chief executive, Carl Ferrer, were acquitted of pimping conspiracy charges by a judge in California, who ruled that the site was protected under laws for sites publishing content by third parties.

According to his plea agreement, Ferrer admitted that he had always been aware that the great majority of Backpage's "escort" and "adult" 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 also agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement.

The conviction in the Texas criminal court comes just days after the Department of Justice seized the website and indicted founders Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68.

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". Authorities allege the site was often used to traffic underage victims, while company officials said they tried to scrub the website of such ads. Ferrer's attorneys did not immediately respond to request for comment.

"The seizure of the malicious sex marketplace Backpage.com marks an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking", Sen.

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Backpage.com was permanently shut down less than a week ago.

Becerra also called the latest legal victories against Backpage "a game-changer in combatting human trafficking".

Backpage.com co-founder Michael Lacey was arrested April 6 and accused of facilitating prostitution by running ads for sexual services and laundering the revenues.

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.

Court documents unsealed on Thursday show that Ferrer's plea process began earlier this month when he pleaded guilty to money laundering in a federal court in Phoenix. Prosecutors allege Backpage's operators illegally funneled almost $45 million through multiple companies and created websites to get around banks that refused to process their transactions.

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. He has also agreed to testify against other website officials.

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