Backpage.com's chief executive has pleaded guilty to state and federal charges stemming from a wide-ranging investigation into the sex ad website, agreeing as part of a deal with prosecutors to shut it down and cooperate in the case.
Ferrer plead guilty pleas in both Sacramento County Superior Court and US District Court in Arizona.
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 FBI has done this before with other sex trafficking websites and online pharmacies. The truth is releases on Thursday, " they were clarified by attorneys-general Xavier Becerra of California and Ken Paxton of all Texas as major victories. The indictment included details about 17 victims of sex trafficking, some as young as 14 years old.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to human trafficking in three states.
Under the California plea agreement, Ferrer will cooperate in prosecuting Backpage.com's creators and will serve no more than five years in state prison.
An indictment filed in Arizona accuses seven individuals tied to Backpage.com with 93 criminal counts, including money laundering and operating a website to facilitate prostitution.
According to court paperwork, the company provided guidance to employees on how to moderate ads to make prostitution ads look more like escort services, adult companionship or other lawful activities.
"It is appropriate that Backpage is now facing criminal charges in Arizona, where the company was founded, and I applaud the tremendous efforts of the agents who contributed to last Friday's enforcement action and who assisted in obtaining the indictment in this case".
Federal prosecutors dispute Backpage's claims that it bars customers offering illegal services and uses "computerized filters" and human moderators to edit wording of ads that explicitly offer sex for money, arguing the defendants acknowledge in company documents and private meetings they were aware of the prostitution being offered on the website. He also admitted to conspiring with others at the company to launder the proceeds from such ads after credit card companies and banks refused to do business with the site.
The plea agreement provides that, if Ferrer fails to comply with either of these requirements, the plea agreement shall be null and void and the United States may bring additional charges against Ferrer.
"While there is no silver bullet to end sex trafficking, to stop its largest beneficiary is a huge step in the right direction", Krell said following the hearing.
Ferrer, along with Lacey and Larkin, had faced criminal charges for conspiracy to pimp and other related counts in California. Larkin has since been ordered to temporarily remain in custody until a continued detention hearing on Monday, April 16, and Spear and Brunst were released from custody pending trial.