Backpage Chief Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Money Laundering
14 April, 2018, 20:16 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
In the plea agreement Ferrer - identified in the indictment only by the initials "C.F." - acknowledged wrongdoing, saying he worked with co-conspirators to "create "moderation" processes through which Backpage would remove terms and pictures that were particularly indicative of prostitution and then publish a revised version of the ad".
The seven defendants charged in the indictment are Michael Lacey, 69, of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; James Larkin, 68, of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; Scott Spear, 67, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; John E. "Jed" Brunst, 66, of Phoenix; Daniel Hyer, 49, of Dallas; Andrew Padilla, 45, of Plano, Texas; and Jaala Joye Vaught, 37, of Addison, Texas.
While many have lauded the charges as a blow to prostitution and human sex trafficking, many critics have argued that banning the site, which was commonly used to solicit sex, will now force women to sell themselves on the streets.
In his federal bargain, Mr. Ferrer, 5-7, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to " facilitate prostitution using a centre in foreign or interstate trade, and conspiracy to take part in money laundering, confessing he'd " long know that the fantastic majority" of their advertisements onto back page for "adult" & &;ldquo;escort" agencies are actually advertisements for prostitution.
"Taking down Backpage and obtaining a criminal conviction for the company and its CEO represents a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world", Attorney General Paxton said following Thursday's guilty pleas.
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.
Ferrer could face up to five years in prison and 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.
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 investigation was a joint effort between Justice, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, along with several U.S. Attorney's offices.
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. He called Ferrer's plea "a game-changer in combatting human trafficking in California, indeed worldwide".
His cooperation in the ongoing investigation into Backpage could lead to other criminal charges against individuals associated with the company, according to the attorney general.
President Donald Trump this week signed a law making it easier to prosecute website operators in the future.
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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