The Executive Director of the web site, which authorities have called the best all over the country “online brothel” pleaded guilty Thursday to state and Federal charges, including conspiracy and money laundering and agreed to testify in the ongoing legal proceedings against other Backpage.com authorities said.
Federal prosecutors say that the cover brought in half a billion dollars since it began in 2004, mainly due to the outstanding frivolous advertising for escorts and massage, and other services and some goods for sale. Authorities claim that the site is often used for victims of traffic of minors, while the company’s representatives said they tried to scrub the website of such ads.
CEO Carl Ferrer will serve no more than five years in prison in California an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California. Also Thursday, the attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton announced that the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking.
And a Federal judge in Phoenix unsealed the April 5 deal, showing that Ferrer pleaded guilty to conspiracy and Backpage.com pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“For too long Backpage.com existed as the dominant market for illegal commercial sex, where sex traffickers are often advertised for children and adults,” U.S. attorney General Jeff sessions, the report said. “But that illegality stops right now.”
In accordance with his agreement to a plea, Ferrer agreed to accept the credentials of the company available for law enforcement, investigation and prosecution continue. Guilt is the last in the cascade of events last week in relation to the company created by former hosts of the voice of Greenwich village in new York, Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68.
The company’s founders were among the officials the cover indicted by a Federal Grand jury in Arizona. Lawyers for the company and Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer not to answer the phone and messages from the associated Press.
The U.S. Department of justice also seized and shut down the website, and the Federal Ferrera deal requires him to help the government to seize all assets of the company.
Ferrer could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine to the Federal case in Arizona while Backpage.com could face a maximum fine of $500,000 for money laundering conspiracy plea in the case of Arizona.
The deal says that any prison term will face Ferrer will run concurrently with his 5-year sentence in Texas and California.
“Human trafficking is modern slavery and it is happening in our own backyard,” California attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement about the deal. He called the statement of Ferrer, “a game-changer in the fight against human trafficking in California, indeed around the world.”
Larkin and Lacey in jail in Arizona awaiting hearings that they should be released after not guilty to Federal charges alleging that they helped publish advertising sexual services.
Five employees also were arrested and pleaded not guilty, but Lacey and Larkin is the only one in jail.
Lacey and Larkin also previously pleaded not guilty in California after the Sacramento Superior County judge Larry brown last year, the state was allowed to continue with accusations of money laundering. The General public Prosecutor that the criminal case, alleges that the operators cover illegally transferred nearly $ 45 million through several companies and have created websites in order to circumvent the banks that refused to process their transactions.
But brown threw out pimping, conspiracy and other governmental charges against the operators by the cover. Brown ruled that the prosecution does not accept the authority of Federal law protect freedom of speech, which gives immunity to sites hosting Content from others.
President Donald trump this week signed a law making it easier to prosecute operators of the website in the future.
State agents in Texas raided the headquarters in Dallas on the cover and Ferrer arrested on a warrant, California after he arrived in Houston Intercontinental airport Bush on a flight from Amsterdam in October. 6, 2016. A Dutch company registered in Delaware, but its principal place of business is in Dallas.
Paxson called pleas on Thursday “a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world.”
Associated Press writers Terry Wallace in Dallas and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this story.