Backpage.com co-founder pleads guilty -US Justice Department
14 April, 2018, 20:14 | Author: Kristen Ingram
The Justice Department announced Thursday that Backpage's co-founder and CEO, Carl Ferrer, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce and to engage in money laundering.
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. But that case was dismissed in 2016 after a judge found that the defendants were protected by the federal Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity against charges for speech created on a website by third parties - in this case, the ads on backpage.com.
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Paxton called the website the "largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world".
Maggy Krell, a former assistant attorney general in California and lawyer who worked on the case, says that the recent pleas and indictments could be a major turning point. The bill would also enable state and local authorities to prosecute websites that break federal sex trafficking laws.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to human trafficking in three states.
State prosecutors changed tack a year ago, filing almost 40 new money laundering charges against Ferrer, Larkin and Lacey.
His admissions came amid the cascade of developments against Backpage.com founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin.
Ferrer's cooperation could lead to criminal charges against others involved with the company.
The "sex worker's rights are women's rights" slogan, was challenged by critics, however, who felt that rallying for legal prostitution essentially argues that sex work is an inherent part of being a female. Authorities allege the site was often used to traffic underage victims, while company officials said they tried to scrub the website of such ads.
Law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department, seized Backpage's servers last week after the DOJ found the site took "consistent and concerted actions" to intentionally allow ads for illegal sex work, The Washington Post reported. Over time, many banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions refused to do business with Backpage due to the illegal nature of its business.
The company founders were among company officials indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona, while Ferrer, 57, was noticeably absent from the indictment.
The three deny the state charges. 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.
Ferrer's guilty pleas were filed in state courts in California and Texas, as well as in federal court in Arizona.
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