Nearly a week ago, the classified advertising website Backpage.com was seized by the Department of Justice on charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering from its forum.
According to the recently released reports, Backpage.com co-founder and CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in Arizona a day before the site was seized and shut down.
Moreover, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his office’s prosecution of Backpage.com resulted in the company pleading guilty to human trafficking in the state and its CEO pleading guilty to money laundering.
"Taking down Backpage and obtaining a criminal conviction for the company and its CEO represents a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world," Paxton said in a statement.
The chief executive of a Dallas-based website, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering, will only serve a maximum of five years in prison under a California agreement.
Along with the prison time, Ferrer could also face 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.
Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to reveal company’s data to law enforcement agencies as investigations and prosecutions continue.
His admissions came amid the cascade of developments against Backpage.com founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin. Ferrer also agreed to cooperate in the ongoing California prosecution against the founders, who pleaded not guilty.
The plea deal also included admissions from Ferrer that a large number of the site's ads were for sex services and that he schemed with others to launder proceeds from the ads after credit card companies and banks wouldn't do business with them.
Since it began in 2004, federal prosecutors said the website brought in a half-billion dollars, mostly through prominent crude advertisements for escorts and massages, among other services and some goods for sale.
A two-year Senate investigation into online sex trafficking revealed the Backpage.com deliberately aided criminal sex trafficking of women and underage girls.
“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,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
“But this illegality stops right now. Last Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, and it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking,” he added.
The obscene activities of the website had drawn the attention of authorities in the past. The company had encountered several lawsuits but remained largely protected by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, a legal protection that gives a broad layer of immunity to online companies from being held liable for user-generated content.
The day Department of Justice seized the website, nation’s most prominent activist group Women’s March said in a statement on Twitter: “The shutting down of #Backpage is an absolute crisis for sex workers who rely on the site to safely get in touch with clients. Sex workers rights are women’s rights.”
After the latest confessions from the CEO surfaced, people are calling out the group on Twitter.
Do the faux-menists still want to defend this awful entity by claiming #SexWorkisWork? You supported human trafficking. Are you proud?!? #QAnonhttps://t.co/34MmZZXQZO pleads guilty to human trafficking https://t.co/UkORl9N2gc— #QAnon gab.ai/dekdarion (@dekdarion) April 13, 2018
This is the vile organization you are defending? What is wrong with you people? https://t.co/RGh7Z41k5a— LAG Tweets (@LAGTweetsMe) April 13, 2018
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