Backpage.com Seized, 93-Count Federal Indictment Levied Against Prostitution Website

"So a forum whose founders made big bucks off trafficked minors doubled as a haven for the vulnerable

The Texas Attorney General's office said Backpage.com has pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas.

Along with the prison time, Ferrer could also face a $250,000 fine in the federal case in Arizona, while Backpage.com could face a maximum fine of $500,000 for its money laundering conspiracy plea in the Arizona case.

Seven people employed by Backpage.com, including co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin, were charged in a 93-count indictment unsealed on Monday.

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. It found that Backpage.com had aided the sex trafficking of women and girls by removing terms such as "lolita", "teenage", "rape", "young", "amber alert", "little girl", "teen", "fresh", "innocent", and "school girl" from ads before posting them on its site.

In addition to those pleas, federal prosecutors in Arizona announced Thursday Backpage.com and CEO Carl Ferrer had pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on April 5.

Texas state agents raided the Dallas headquarters of Backpage and arrested Ferrer on a California warrant after he arrived at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on a flight from Amsterdam on October 6, 2016.

The terms of the agreement also require Ferrer to assist USA authorities to shut the operation down, as well as forfeit to the government corporate assets and other property owned or controlled by Backpage-linked entities. 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.

"It is appropriate that Backpage is now facing criminal charges in Arizona, where the company was founded, and I applaud the tremendous efforts of the agents who contributed to last Friday's enforcement action and who assisted in obtaining the indictment in this case".

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Ferrer says in his federal plea deal that he was aware that a great majority of the site's ads were for sex services.

The Dutch-owned company is incorporated in DE, but its principal place of business is in Dallas.

Paxon called Thursday's pleas "a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world".

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.

Ferrer also agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue.

Ferrer, along with Lacey and Larkin, had faced criminal charges for conspiracy to pimp and other related counts in California.

The agreements were published one day after President Trump signed anti-sex-trafficking legislation into law on Wednesday.

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