Backpage CEO Pleads Guilty

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April 12, 2018, Sacramento, CA

Ferrer Above; Photo: Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle

Thursday, Backpage CEO, Carl Ferrer pled guilty to state and federal charges including conspiracy and money laundering, and agreed to testify in ongoing prosecutions against others at Backpage.com, authorities said.

Backpage brought in half a billion dollars since the company began in 2004. Most of its revenue has come from an overwhelming number of sex ads. A majority of the victims we have assisted were posted on the site. As a result, Florida Abolitionist and one of the survivors has filed a federal suit against Backpage in the state of Florida.

Currently, the only open cases are in Arizona, California, and Texas. We wait to see how Florida will handle the case especially since the passing of a new federal law that holds websites accountable to third-party posts. Read more on FOSTA/SESTA here.

“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.”

Ferrer could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine in the federal case in Arizona, while Backpage.com could face a maximum fine of $500,000 for its money laundering conspiracy plea in the Arizona case.

Backpage owners, Michael Lacey and James Larkin remain jailed in Arizona after being arrested for publishing ads for sexual services. They await hearings on whether they should be released after pleading not guilty.

While shutting down Backpage.com will not stop human trafficking, it greatly reduces the ease with which traffickers are able to set up “dates” for buyers. If an illicit meeting is going to happen, now buyers and traffickers will have to find another way to make it happen.

Trafficking exists because people are willing to use others for sex. As long as there is a demand, there will be trafficking. We are happy that at least a bump in the road has been placed to make it harder for buyers to exploit trafficking victims. We are also pleased to see justice served to those who have been involved in the abuse and exploitation of so many young people for far too long.

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