Backpage.com Founders Charged With Facilitating Prostitution And Laundering Money

Backpage.com Seized, 93-Count Federal Indictment Levied Against Prostitution Website

The Texas Attorney General's Office announced Thursday that Backpage.com has pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas less than a week after federal officials permanently shut down the online classifieds site. It came three days after Backpage was seized - its homepage now displays a notice that it was seized under an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

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Breitbart Texas and Breitbart News have reported extensively on the taking down of Backpage.com by law enforcement officials and numerous human trafficking crimes prosecuted against sex trafficking perpetrators who used the website for their marketing.

A two-year Senate investigation into online sex trafficking revealed the Backpage.com deliberately aided criminal sex trafficking of women and underage girls.

"This website will no longer serve as a platform for human traffickers to thrive, and those who were complicit in its use to exploit human beings for monetary gain will be held accountable for their heinous actions", said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The guilty pleas by the company and CEO Carl Ferrer were made on April 5, but were unsealed late Thursday afternoon.

Absent were Ferrer's partners, former New Times and Village Voice owners James Larkin and Michael Lacey, who with Ferrer were briefly jailed at the outset of the case on pimping charges. He is cooperating with the continuing investigation into the company and other possible defendants.

"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.

The 61-page indictment, returned under seal March 28 by a federal grand jury, claimed that "virtually every dollar flowing into Backpage's coffers represents proceeds of illegal activity". "[The] editing practices were only one component of an overall, company-wide culture and policy of concealing and refusing to officially acknowledge the true nature of the services being offered in Backpage's "escort" and "adult" ads".

Ferrer says in his federal plea deal that he was aware that a great majority of the site's ads were for sex services.

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.

But his attorney, Paul Cambria, told Reuters following the proceedings that US District Judge Bridget Bade had agreed to release him on $1 million bond, with home monitoring, if financial papers were in order.

The three deny the state charges.

President Donald Trump this week signed a law making it easier to prosecute website operators in the future.

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