Backpage.com co-founder pleads guilty -US Justice Department

Frederick Owens
April 15, 2018

Additionally, several Backpage-related corporate entities, including Backpage.com LLC, have entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

Almost a week ago, the classified advertising website Backpage.com was seized by the Department of Justice on accounts of facilitating prostitution and money laundering from its forum. Authorities accuse the site of facilitating underage sex trafficking.

The FBI seized the website because it was allegedly being used to facilitate crime.

Government officials touted the indictment and seizure of the popular classified ads website as a major step in the fight against sex trafficking. Kamala Harris, dubbed the site the "world's largest online brothel" for its adult section which prosecutors argued was a multibillion-dollar front for prostitution and sex trafficking including the selling of children for sex.

The U.S. Senate also recently approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which would remove a legal loophole that shields websites that knowingly take part in human sex trafficking from legal liability. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news. Backpage was owned by a Dutch-based company.

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.

Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to reveal company's data to law enforcement agencies as investigations and prosecutions continue. It called those claims little more than "a fiction created to hide the true nature of Backpage's ads and customers".

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The chief executive order, Carl Ferrer, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California, and to money laundering in Texas, " the states' attorneys-general declared.

While the personal ads on Cragislist, a similar site to Backpage, are still up in Canada, the U.S account took them offline last month. Over time, many banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions refused to do business with Backpage due to the illegal nature of its business.

In December 2016, the state of California filed pimping and money laundering charges against Ferrer and former Backpage.com owners Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin.

"Such editing did not, of course, change the essential nature of the illegal service being offered in the ad - it was merely meant to create a veneer of deniability for Backpage", Ferrer said.

The seven defendants charged in the 93-count indictment were all arrested on Friday, April 6. Magistrate Judge Bridget Bade says attorneys have agreed on the terms of release, but other details must be ironed out.

On April 9, Larkin, Spear, and Brunst had their initial court appearances before Judge Bade.

James Larkin underwent a hearing Thursday over whether to release him from jail.

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