Coming on the heels of the RENTBOY bust and CEO Jeffrey Hurant pleading guilty to promoting prostitution — which could land him 10 years in prison and a $10 million dollar fine. Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer has been charged with nine counts of “pimping, attempted pimping, and criminal conspiracy,” according to AVN.
The charges revolve around Backpage’s large escort ads, which cater to both men and women. Organized much in the same way as Craigslist’s discontinued adult section, the ads aren’t much racier than what you’d find in the back pages of any “alternative” weekly, hence the name.
“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” said Attorney General (Kamilia) Harris in a press release announcing the criminal charges. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel. Thank you to the California Department of Justice Special Agents, investigators, attorneys, and our partners in law enforcement who have worked tirelessly to bring the operators of this online brothel to justice and protect thousands of victims of trafficking.”
Ferrer was arrested yesterday in Houston after his flight from Amsterdam landed at the airport there, and in addition to the charges leveled by California, Texas is also charging Ferrer with money laundering, though the details of that are not currently available.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that despite the indictments, the congressional investigation into Backpage’s practices will continue unabated.
“For the past 18 months, we have led a bipartisan investigation into the scourge of online sex trafficking,” said McCaskill and fellow Sen. Rob Portman (D-OH) in a statement. “That investigation led us directly to Backpage, an online marketplace that has been involved in hundreds of reported cases of sex trafficking, including child exploitation. We certainly wish that Backpage had willingly cooperated with our investigation. Despite its refusal to do so, our investigation was the first to uncover Backpage’s practice of editing ads in manner that serves to conceal evidence of criminality. As law enforcement officials in Texas and California do their job, we will continue to press forward and complete our longstanding investigation.”
Backpage has been fighting that Senate investigation for several months, though most recently, a federal judge in the District of Columbia issued an order enforcing the investigative committee’s subpoenas for certain Backpage records which Ferrer had refused to produce, claiming attorney/client privilege.
There has been no news as of yet if Homeland Security was involved.