Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Backpage.com CEO Pleads Guilty, Will Cooperate With Feds On Money Laundering

Backpage.com CEO Pleads Guilty, Will Cooperate With Feds On Money Laundering

Michael Lacey, who was charged along with six others in a 93-count indictment this week following the seizure and removal from the internet of Backpage.com, a classified listing website, and affiliated websites, remained in custody following a detention hearing in US District Court in Arizona.

The chief executive order, Carl Ferrer, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California, and to money laundering in Texas, " the states' attorneys-general declared.

He is cooperating with the continuing investigation into the company and other possible defendants.

And a federal judge in Phoenix unsealed an April 5 plea deal revealing that Ferrer pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and Backpage.com pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy.

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Five employees of the site also were arrested and pleaded not guilty, but Lacey and Larkin are the only ones in jail. The FBI seized Backpage.com on April 6, leaving nothing but a notice informing users of the website's seizure by the USA government.

The website was taken down last week because the two founders and CEO were indicted on prostitution and money laundering charges. Attorneys for the company and Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer did not respond to multiple telephone and email messages from The Associated Press.

"It is my honest hope that my client's tenacity and today's news of Backpage.com's acknowledgment of its guilt in facilitating human trafficking will encourage other survivors of human trafficking to come forward, tell their stories, and hold wrongdoers accountable", he said.

The statement did not state, however, where the pleas were entered or if they were entered in Texas. The state attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case, alleges that Backpage's operators illegally funneled almost $45 million through multiple companies and created websites to get around banks that refused to process their transactions.

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As the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world, Backpage facilitated the sex trafficking of innocent women and children through sites it ran for 943 locations in 97 countries and 17 languages.

President Trump yesterday signed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 into law, making it easier for law enforcement to take legal action against any websites that enable human trafficking.

State agents raided the Dallas headquarters of Backpage and arrested Ferrer on a California warrant after he arrived at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on a flight from Amsterdam on October 6, 2016.

Although the pair sold their interests in Backpage in 2015, the indictment said they had since "retained significant control over the website", receiving tens of millions of dollars.

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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.

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