Backpage founders accused of promoting prostitution, laundering money
Backpage founders accused of promoting prostitution, laundering money
DOJ issues 93-count indictment against Backpage over sex ads
10 April, 2018, 19:49
The U.S. Department of Justice today released a 61-page indictment including 93 criminal counts against two founders and five other employees of Backpage.com, the worldwide general-classified site accused of facilitating prostitution.
The 93-count indictment against seven people says Backpage earned $500 million in prostitution-related revenue since 2004, and they used various schemes to hide the sources of the funds.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions characterized the charges as a blow against human trafficking, saying law enforcement had "put an end to the violence, abuse, and heartache that has been perpetrated using this site".
Authorities quoted from a 2014 email from C.F.to Larkin and John "Jed" Brunst. Prosecutors asked to keep Lacey in custody until a detention hearing scheduled for April 11; the judge denied a request by Lacey's lawyer for an immediate ruling, and he remains in custody. "State and local law enforcement need this bill to enable them to take swift action against websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking of children online, and to stop the next Backpage long before another website can claim so many innocent victims".
Backpage.com was founded in Arizona, where it is also has banking accounts and servers, according to an official with the United States attorney's office.
Councilmember David Grosso, an at-large independent, said in a statement that Backpage and other sites "allowed sex workers to operate with a greater degree of safety than on the streets".
"Whilst efforts to close websites such as Backpage are welcome, they are a small part of a wider, complex system of sexual exploitation operating in the United Kingdom and beyond", Josephine Knowles, co-director of Beyond the Streets, told the BBC. One victim was killed, and the perpetrator attempted to cover up the crime by burning the body, according to the charging documents.
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According to the indictment [PDF], Backpage was warned repeatedly that it was carrying adverts prostituting underage girls. Prosecutors accused the defendants of refusing to adopt policies that would target ads featuring the prostitution of children and limiting referrals to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The 61-page indictment spells out the offending ads in black and white, adding that "By 2008, if not earlier, the Backpage defendants were aware that the overwhelming majority of the website's "adult" ads involved prostitution".
Kiling Backpage.com is good news, but shutting down a much wider swath of electronic communications and gutting Section 230 going after them is not the answer.
The legal shenanigans ultimately led to the arrest of Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer in 2017 and the eventual removal of the adult section of the website.
The seven people charged in the federal indictment are accused of trying to sanitize ads by removing photos and words that were indicative of prostitution and then publishing a revised version of the notices.
A later tweet that also included the hashtag "Sex Work Is Work", the March's account said that it would "be sharing more about sex workers rights to uplift this critical issue". Ferrer is not named as a defendant.
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.
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