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Hearing set for Backpage.com founder in case over sex ads

14 April 2018

From the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Breitbart Texas and Breitbart News have reported extensively on the taking down of Backpage.com by law enforcement officials and numerous human trafficking crimes prosecuted against sex trafficking perpetrators who used the website for their marketing. Over time, many banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions refused to do business with Backpage due to the illegal nature of its business.

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.

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. The company also pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas.

Four employees and the site's founders pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

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The CEO of the company, Carl Ferrer is also pleading guilty to money laundering charges, which will result in up to five years in prison.

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.

The terms of the agreement also require Ferrer to assist U.S. 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.

In the Arizona plea, Ferrer acknowledged knowing that a great majority of Backpage.com's ads were for sex services.

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.

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Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue.

SESTA aims to halt sex trafficking, particularly of children, by restricting what kind of information can be posted on websites like Backpage, where people often advertise sexual services.

The company founders were among company officials indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona, while Ferrer, 57, was noticeably absent from the indictment.

In October 2016, Attorney General Paxton's Law Enforcement Division arrested Ferrer in Houston.

In his admission statement, Ferrer admitted that he conspired with other Backpage officials to facilitate prostitution crimes being committed by users of the site.

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"I'm pleased that Congress has taken additional steps by passing my SESTA legislation to let sex trafficking victims seek justice and allow state and local law enforcement to swiftly prosecute websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws", Portman said.

Hearing set for Backpage.com founder in case over sex ads