World

Backpage Chief Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Money Laundering

Backpage Chief Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Money Laundering

'But this illegality stops right now'.

The indictment disputed the site's claims that it barred ads offering illegal services and patrolled ads with computer filters and human moderators to weed out prostitution.

The 93-count indictment by a federal grand jury in the southwestern state of Arizona, where the company was launched in 2004, was unsealed on Monday.

The state Attorney General's Office said Thursday that Ferrer will cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Larkin and Lacey, which will continue in Sacramento Superior Court.

Five employees of the site also were arrested and pleaded not guilty, but Lacey and Larkin are the only ones in jail. The executive then traveled to Texas where he again pleaded guilty to money laundering and Backpage pleaded guilty to human trafficking.

"Backpage has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking, placing profits over the well-being and safety of the many thousands of women and children who were victimized by its practices", said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. odd.

The guilty pleas by the company and 57-year-old CEO Carl Ferrer were made on April 5, but were unsealed late Thursday afternoon.

They are Michael Lacey, 69, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; James Larkin, 68, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; Scott Spear, 67, of Scottsdale, Arizona; John E. "Jed" Brunst, 66, of Phoenix, Arizona; Daniel Hyer, 49, of Dallas, Texas; Andrew Padilla, 45, of Plano, Texas; and Jaala Joye Vaught, 37, of Addison, Texas.

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.

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.

The most serious of the charges carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the official added. This comes less than a week after the attorney general's office assisted the Department of Justice with permanently shutting down the website. He called Ferrer's plea "a game-changer in combatting human trafficking in California, indeed worldwide".

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

But Brown threw out pimping conspiracy and other state charges against Backpage's operators.

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.

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

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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