A two-year Senate investigation into online sex trafficking revealed the Backpage.com deliberately aided criminal sex trafficking of women and underage girls. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
In addition to modifying advertisements, Ferrer admitted that he and other Backpage officials duped credit card companies and banks that refused to process the company's payments.
An indictment filed in Arizona accuses seven individuals tied to Backpage.com with 93 criminal counts, including money laundering and operating a website to facilitate prostitution. Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking.
The state-level pleas were demanded from the federal plea agreements Mr. Ferrer and Backpage entered on April 5 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.
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Last year, Lacey, Larkin, and website's chief executive, Carl Ferrer, were acquitted of pimping conspiracy charges by a judge in California, who ruled that the site was protected under laws for sites publishing content by third parties.
He will serve no more than five years in a state prison under the plea agreement or he could pay a fine of $250,000.
The Dutch-owned company is incorporated in DE, but its principal place of business is in Dallas.
The 61-page indictment, returned under seal March 28 by a federal grand jury, claimed that "virtually every dollar flowing into Backpage's coffers represents proceeds of illegal activity". Lacey, Larkin and the others were arrested after the Justice Department seized Backpage.com and all its affiliated websites Friday.
According to his plea agreement, Ferrer admitted that he had always been aware that the great majority of Backpage's "escort" and "adult" advertisements are, in fact, advertisements for prostitution services, which are not protected by the First Amendment and which are illegal in 49 states and in much of Nevada.
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As the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world, Backpage facilitated the sex trafficking of innocent women and children through sites it ran for 943 locations in 97 countries and 17 languages.
In October 2016, Attorney General Paxton's Law Enforcement Division arrested Ferrer in Houston.
Ferrer, along with Lacey and Larkin, had faced criminal charges for conspiracy to pimp and other related counts in California.
"I'm pleased that Congress has taken additional steps by passing my SESTA legislation to let sex trafficking victims seek justice and allow state and local law enforcement to swiftly prosecute websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws", Portman said.
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