Backpage.com CEO pleads guilty, will testify against others


By DON THOMPSON

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The chief executive of Backpage.com pleaded guilty to state and federal charges including conspiracy and money laundering, and agreed to testify in ongoing prosecutions against others at the website that authorities have dubbed a lucrative nationwide “online brothel,” authorities said.

“For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “But this illegality stops right now.”

Backpage brought in a half-billion dollars since it began in 2004, mostly though prominent risque advertising for escorts and massages, among other services and some goods for sale, according to federal prosecutors. Authorities allege the site was often used to traffic underage victims, while company officials said they tried to scrub the site of such ads.

Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer will serve no more than five years in prison under a California agreement in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California. Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

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.

Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to make the company’s data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue. The guilty pleas are the latest in a cascade of developments in the last week against the company founded by the former owners of the Village Voice in New York City, Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68.

The company founders were among Backpage officials indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona. Attorneys for the company and Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer did not respond to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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