DOJ issues 93-count indictment against Backpage over sex ads

Share

The status of the remaining two defendants, Dan Hyer and Andrew Padilla, was not immediately clear.

An email seeking comment has been sent to Lacey's attorney of record.

The Republic reported Friday there was "activity involving Federal Bureau of Investigation agents." at the Arizona homes of Lacey and Larkin.

Last week, federal authorities seized Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.

The Justice Department noted that it had already seized the Backpage domain; it listed dozens of related domains that it seeks to seize, along with 10 properties in California, Arizona, Texas and IL. The government alleges that Backpage workers knew that numerous sex work ads appearing on the site involved underage teens.

"However this illegality stops proper now", Classes added.

Backpage also wired the proceeds from its business account to bank accounts held in foreign countries and then redistributed the money back to defendants or into bank accounts in the United States.


In the indictment, prosecutors allege that although backpage.com's owners and managers tried to make it seem as though the site only advertised lawful activities, those tactics were "a fiction created to hide the true nature of Backpage's ads and customers". A Senate investigation found a year ago that Backpage was involved in 73% of all child trafficking reports that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children receives from the public.

The indictment cites 17 victims - some as young as 14 - and authorities allege the site received over $500 million in prostitution-related revenue. One victim was allegedly murdered by a customer.

The federal government seized the online classifieds site Backpage on Friday, but the case remained sealed at the time.

Senate subpoenas revealed that Backpage executives were complicit in the enabling of traffickers, including some of whom went so far as to coach them on how to avoid criminal charges through editing out words like "cheerleader", "little girl", and "school girl", from their online ads. More than 73 percent of reports by the public to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children concern a Backpage.com ad, the center said in January 2017.

The measure "expresses the sense of Congress that section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 was not meant to provide legal protection to websites that unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims".

It accused the company of using cryptocurrencies, domestic and global wire transfers and other money laundering techniques, including the establishment of a shell corporation in the Netherlands, to hide the proceeds of its advertising sales. "It was 100% people wanting sex for money", a deputy said.

Nevertheless, a decide dismissed them, saying they relate to the publishing of sex-related commercials and couldn't be filed due to a federal regulation defending free speech that grants immunity to web sites that put up content material created by others. Ferrer is not named as a defendant. For several years the site has been fielding allegations from Congress that it not only allowed and encouraged postings for prostitution and sex trafficking of minors but also actively participated in covering up these activities.

Share