DOJ issues 93-count indictment against Backpage over sex ads

Source WGCL

Website founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin are charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering.

Backpage.com's CEO Carl Ferrer, along with Lacey and Larkin, previously faced criminal charges for conspiracy to pimp and other related counts in state court in California.

The owners of the classified advertising site Backpage.com, who have already beaten some state charges in a separate California case, are now facing a federal indictment charging them with ignoring warnings to stop running advertisements promoting prostitution.

The indictment also claims the website laundered some of its profits, alleging "virtually every dollar" earned by Backpage "represents the proceeds of illegal activity".

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While the site maintains it diligently tries to prevent prostitution ads, it still allows them and has declined to take steps to confront the problem, the indictment said. According to prosecutors, the victim's father asked backpage.com to remove the ads featuring his daughter after she was killed, but the site "did not immediately comply with this request".

This weekend, the pro-cop killer Women's March further tested the limits of humanity's moral endurance by protesting the USA government's seizure of Backpage.com, a website that was allegedly used to facilitate both adult and child prostitution.

One company memo simply read, "Do not acknowledge the prostitution".

Lacey's lawyer called the charges "baseless" and said the seizure of the website was a "massive assault on the First Amendment" which protects free speech.

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Backpage allegedly accrued more than $500 million in revenue through prostitution-related advertisements since its inception. Now organizers from the Women's March are calling the shutting down of Backpage.com "an absolute crisis for sex workers" in a statement posted through their Twitter account.

But Backpage had evaded prosecution, in large part by invoking the Communications Decency Act.

Backpage and its founders have been the subject of intense investigation by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in recent years. It accuses Backpage of being on notice for many years, from law enforcement, news media and its own public relations firm, that its most of its ads were thinly veiled offers for prostitutes.

If Backpage truly was a party to child sex trafficking, there should be no question that the website needed to be shut down. "While these types of investigations can be made more challenging with the use of virtual currency, offshore banking, and the anonymity of the Internet, it should serve as an example to all criminals that there is not a place they can hide where we will not find them".

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Sales and marketing director Dan Hyer, 49, operations manager Andrew Padilla, 45, and assistant operations manager Joye Vaught, 37, were charged with facilitating prostitution.

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