Backpage founders to see day in court

Backpage founders to see day in court

Backpage founders to see day in court

Backpage.com pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas on Thursday, one week after federal authorities shut down the classified ads website and days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it the "dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex".

Ferrer additionally pleaded guilty to state money laundering charges in California as well as Texas, where the company itself pleaded guilty to human trafficking, according to the attorneys general in those states. The FBI seized Backpage.com on April 6, leaving nothing but a notice informing users of the website's seizure by the US government.

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From the Texas Attorney General's Office. The indictment included details about 17 victims of sex trafficking, some as young as 14 years old.

The two plea deals, which cover both Ferrer personally and Backpage.com LLC, were unsealed just a day after President Donald Trump enacted a law that targets Backpage and its ilk.

In a federal indictment unsealed Monday and cited by the Associated Press, the website's founders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, are accused of facilitating prostitution by running ads for sexual services and laundering the revenues.

Ferrer's cooperation could lead to criminal charges against others involved with the company.

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"While there is no silver bullet to end sex trafficking, to stop its largest beneficiary is a huge step in the right direction", Krell said following the hearing.

Federal prosecutors dispute Backpage's claims that it bars customers offering illegal services and uses "computerized filters" and human moderators to edit wording of ads that explicitly offer sex for money, arguing the defendants acknowledge in company documents and private meetings they were aware of the prostitution being offered on the website.

In addition to modifying advertisements, Ferrer admitted that he and other Backpage officials duped credit card companies and banks that refused to process the company's payments.

The founders also were among those indicted this month by a federal grand jury in Arizona.

A federal subcommittee in 2017 went further in a scathing report alleging Backpage concealed its criminal conduct by sanitizing its adult ads and stripping words and terms such as "lolita", "rape", "amber alert" and "school girl" that could tip authorities to sex trafficking and child sex trafficking - all under Ferrer's direction.

The three deny the state charges.

Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue. Lacey, who also had his initial court appearance on April 6 before Judge Willett, subsequently had a detention hearing on April 11 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bridget S. Bade of the District of Arizona and was ordered to temporarily remain in custody until his continued hearing on Friday, April 13.

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