Backpage.com, CEO Plead Guilty in Sex-Trafficking Crackdown

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Federal prosecutors say that Backpage brought in a half-billion dollars since it began in 2004, mostly through prominent risque advertising for escorts and massages, among other services and some goods for sale.

Ferrer then traveled to Sacramento where he pleaded guilty to money laundering once more and was released on bond. Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

Also charged were Jim Larkin, co-founder of Backpage.com and a longtime Lacey associate.

"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", U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

"While there is no silver bullet to end sex trafficking, to stop its largest beneficiary is a huge step in the right direction", Krell said following the hearing.

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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.

Backpage was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies on April 6, according to a notice on the site.

Calls to the defendants' attorneys were not immediately returned Tuesday, but critics of the website have hailed the arrests.

In 2015, the state filed charges against the company for pimping and money laundering, but the case was thrown out the following year.

According to the plea agreement terms the company's CEO Carl Ferrer, 57, agrees to cooperate in the prosecution of alleged co-conspirators Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68. Ferrer's plea agreement, and the corporate plea agreements, also consent to the forfeiture of certain assets and items of property, including various domain names associated with the Backpage website.

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Larkin and Lacey remain jailed in Arizona while awaiting hearings on whether they should be released after pleading not guilty to federal charges alleging they helped publish ads for sexual services. The executive then traveled to Texas where he again pleaded guilty to money laundering and Backpage pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

The Texas Attorney General's Office assisted the Department of Justice with permanently shutting down the website a little under a week ago.

He also acknowledged other back page officials and he had applied financial institution account and processing organizations to hide the foundation of their own revenue.

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.

Paxton's office previously arrested Ferrer in Houston in 2016 and executed a search warrant at his Dallas home.

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