The unsealing of an unprecedented number of sealed indictments has begun.
Backpage.com, the money-laundering prostitution ads company was seized by the Justice Department this week. The company co-founder and CEO, Carl Ferrer, 57, of Frisco, Texas, plead guilty to conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce and to engage in money laundering.
The DOJ unsealed a 93-count federal indictment against seven Backpage principals.
Several related corporate entities, including Backpage.com LLC, also entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
Many people have been saying that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray have been sitting on their hands. Obviously, this is not true.
Backpage … can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking.
AG Sessions said “For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike.” said Attorney General Sessions. “Backpage … can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking.”
Backpage, an Arizona company, earned hundreds of millions of dollars from prostitution and sex trafficking. The criminal charges against the company are being brought in Arizona.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange noted that seized internal emails and company documents were described in the indictment were shocking and callous. She said the company placed profits ahead the well-being and safety of thousands of women and children.
Mr. Ferrer admitted that he was aware that the majority of Backpage’s “escort” and “adult” advertisements were advertisements for prostitution services. Prostitution services are illegal in 49 states and in much of Nevada. Neither are they protected by the First Amendment.
Ferrer and other Backpage principals conspired to find ways to knowingly facilitate the state-law prostitution crimes being committed by Backpage’s customers. One of the things they did was to create “moderation” processes. They would remove terms and pictures that were particularly indicative of prostitution, revise those ads and republish them.
Note that these indictments are net yet proven and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Here is information about the law enforcement effort, as detailed in a DOJ press release:
The effort to seize Backpage was led by the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, with significant support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the office of the California Attorney General, and the office of the Texas Attorney General. The law enforcement agencies conducting the investigation and seizure include the FBI Phoenix Field Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and IRS-CI. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Rapp, Dominic Lanza, and Margaret Perlmeter of the District of Arizona and Senior Trial Attorney Reginald E. Jones of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kucera of the Central District of California is handling the asset forfeiture aspects of the case.