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

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

Ferrer pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering.

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.

Backpage.com co-founder Michael Lacey was arrested April 6 and accused of facilitating prostitution by running ads for sexual services and laundering the revenues.

Lacey is scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday in federal court in Arizona, followed by Larkin on Thursday.

But his attorney, Paul Cambria, told Reuters following the proceedings that US District Judge Bridget Bade had agreed to release him on $1 million bond, with home monitoring, if financial papers were in order. The hearing will resume Monday.

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.

Backpage pleaded guilty to facilitating the sex trafficking of women and children through sites it ran for 943 locations in 97 countries and 17 languages.




Attorney General Ken Paxton also announced Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has pleaded guilty to money laundering after a federal grand jury returned a 93-count indictment against his website.

The Texas and California attorneys general worked together to find evidence that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution, Breitbart Texas reported.

Backpage.com pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas on Thursday, one week after federal authorities shut down the classified ads website and days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it the "dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex".

State prosecutors changed tack a year ago, filing almost 40 new money laundering charges against Ferrer, Larkin and Lacey.

Azariah Conley, Armando Valdivia and Moses Avila all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first degree burglary and identity theft after reaching an agreement with the state. On Oct. 6, 2016, the CEO of Backpage.com was arrested at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport after arriving on a flight from Amsterdam. He said Ferrer's cooperation in the ongoing investigation into Dallas-based Backpage "could lead to other criminal charges" being filed against the company's associates. Kamala Harris, dubbed the site the "world's largest online brothel" for its adult section which prosecutors argued was a multibillion-dollar front for prostitution and sex trafficking including the selling of children for sex.

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.

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