Backpage CEO Pleads Guilty To Human Trafficking And Money Laundering

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The indictment disputed the site's claims that it barred ads offering illegal services and patrolled ads with computer filters and human moderators to weed out prostitution.

Larkin, co-founder Michael Lacey and five Backpage.com employees were arrested in what authorities say was a scheme to publish ads for sexual services.

The state Attorney General's Office said Thursday that Ferrer will cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Larkin and Lacey, which will continue in Sacramento Superior Court. Additionally, the business pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

The acknowledgements of wrongdoing came shortly after Ferrer pleaded guilty on Thursday to a state money laundering charges in California and the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas. Backpage.com removed the adult section from all of its websites last January after the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations released a report that accused the website of knowingly facilitating child sex trafficking.

They are Michael Lacey, 69, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; James Larkin, 68, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; Scott Spear, 67, of Scottsdale, Arizona; John E. "Jed" Brunst, 66, of Phoenix, Arizona; Daniel Hyer, 49, of Dallas, Texas; Andrew Padilla, 45, of Plano, Texas; and Jaala Joye Vaught, 37, of Addison, Texas.

Visitors to backpage.com and backpage.ca, known for personal adult ads, were met on Friday with a message that stated, "backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division".

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Ferrer agreed, in combined plea deals with both Texas and California authorities, where he faced outstanding charges, that he will shut down Backpage "throughout the world", will aid authorities in ongoing prosecutions of his co-conspirators, and will make all Backpage data available to authorities.

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.

The company founders were among Backpage officials indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona. The state attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case, alleges that Backpage's operators illegally funneled almost $45 million through multiple companies and created websites to get around banks that refused to process their transactions.

Although he has agreed to testify against other executives at Backpage, the California plea agreement indicates that Ferrer will face up to five years in prison; sentences handed down in Arizona and Texas would run along the same time period.

Attorney General Paxton has made combating human trafficking a top priority.

Paxton called the website the "largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world".

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