Backpage shutdown puts sex workers at risk

14 April, 2018, 20:15 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Backpage.com Seized, 93-Count Federal Indictment Levied Against Prostitution Website

I want to thank everyone who made this important seizure possible: "all of our dedicated and committed professionals in the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and our U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Arizona, the FBI, our partners with the IRS Criminal Investigation, our Postal Inspectors, and the Texas and California Attorney Generals' offices". Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news. He also admitted to conspiring with others at the company to launder the proceeds from such ads after credit card companies and banks refused to do business with the site.

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.

Ferrer has also agreed in his California plea to take down every Backpage-affiliated website that he can within five days and forfeit all Backpage-related domains within 14 days. Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking. But a letter provided to the committee before the hearing said the site and its employees "agree that human trafficking is abhorrent and should be eradicated" and that it "has spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars" working with law enforcement to fight trafficking.

Lacey and Larkin also earlier pleaded not guilty to the California charges after Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Larry Brown previous year allowed the state to continue with money laundering charges.

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In the Arizona plea, Ferrer acknowledged knowing that a great majority of Backpage.com's ads were for sex services.

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 statement did not state, however, where the pleas were entered or if they were entered in Texas. On Oct. 6, 2016, the CEO of Backpage.com was arrested at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport after arriving on a flight from Amsterdam.

The US Congress passed a bill last month that allows victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against website owners who knowingly promote or facilitate the practice.

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The most serious of the charges carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the official added.

Almost a week ago, the classified advertising website Backpage.com was seized by the Department of Justice on accounts of facilitating prostitution and money laundering from its forum.

The site was the dominant hub for sex workers to advertise their services, and it had come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as the U.S. government made efforts to crack down on sex trafficking with legislation like the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), which President Trump signed this week.

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