Backpage.com, CEO plead guilty to state, USA charges

Backpage.com, CEO plead guilty to state, USA charges

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation concluded, Portman said, that Backpage.com "knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and children, coached traffickers on how to evade justice, and covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits".

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Thursday that the prosecution of Backpage.com has resulted in the company pleading guilty to human trafficking in Texas.

He also says he conspired with others at Backpage.com to launder the proceeds from such ads after credit card companies and banks refused to do business with the site.

Larkin, co-founder Michael Lacey and five Backpage.com employees were arrested in what authorities say was a scheme to publish ads for sexual services. It found that Backpage.com had aided the sex trafficking of women and girls by removing terms such as "lolita", "teenage", "rape", "young", "amber alert", "little girl", "teen", "fresh", "innocent", and "school girl" from ads before posting them on its site.

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The CEO, in a federal plea agreement unsealed in federal court in Arizona on Thursday, admitted that during the 14 years of the site's existence, "the great majority" of Backpage's allegedly hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue came from placing illegal ads for prostitution.

And a federal judge in Phoenix unsealed an April 5 plea deal revealing that Ferrer pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and Backpage.com pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy.

Texas state agents raided the Dallas headquarters of Backpage and arrested Ferrer on a California warrant after he arrived at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on a flight from Amsterdam on October 6, 2016.

Backpage - accused of being the biggest website for prostitution in the world, with its classifieds used to promote paid-for sex with minors and victims of human trafficking - was abruptly shut down by USA authorities on April 6.

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The plea agreement provides that, if Ferrer fails to comply with either of these requirements, the plea agreement shall be null and void and the United States may bring additional charges against Ferrer. He said Ferrer's cooperation in the ongoing investigation into Dallas-based Backpage "could lead to other criminal charges" being filed against the company's associates. "There is no one in the entire world who made more money off sex trafficking than the owners of this website", she said.

Ferrer also agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement.

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

On Wednesday, President Trump signed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 into law, making it easier for law enforcement to take legal action against any websites that enable human trafficking.

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