Authorities announced that on Thursday the chief executive of the online adult classifieds ads portal known as Backpage.com was arrested in Texas on allegations of sex trafficking. State Attorney General Kamala Harris led the crackdown and has said that the website which has been called the “world’s top online brothel,” has been profiting from the sex trafficking of adults and children.
Carl Ferrer was arrested after he returned to the United States on a flight from Amsterdam when it landed in Houston. The warrant was originally from California and the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined in the criminal inquiry against the CEO after the company’s Dallas headquarters had been raided. The documents filed in court allege that Backpage.com had been knowingly receiving money from prostitutes who were underage as well as hosting escort ads on the website which led to children and adults becoming sex-trafficking victims.
Backpage actually hosts ads for the sale of a range of items and services, but it has become widely known for hosting ads for “escort services,” and has essentially been operating an online brothel with millions of dollars being made off the illegal sex trade. In fact, in their report on the arrest and investigation the Office of the Attorney General for the State of California Department of Justice, led by Kamala Harris, outlined that nearly all of Backpage’s global income is derived from the “adult” sections, with the ads being posted and paid for by their users. The ads typically featured nearly nude photos of clients with a wide range of sex being offered in coded language.
Paxton went so far as to state that evidence showed that “adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appeared repeatedly on Backpage.” Court papers showed that Ferrer, who is 55, also stands accused of multiple counts of pimping and pimping minors which is a felony. Paxton gave a statement which passionately defended the plight of the children and women caught in a sex trafficking ring.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas.”
Backpage.com is a popular platform believed to mainly be used by escorts and other sex workers and has long been the subject of scrutiny. The website had been accused of not doing enough to put a stop to the child prostitution and sex trafficking that the site blatantly facilitates. Just last year the Cook County sheriff in Illinois managed to get the company effectively cut off from the credit card payment system when a warning was issued to all the credit card companies about Backpage ignoring the child prostitution it facilitated so that it could turn a profit.
Court documents presented in the case against Carl Ferrer and his company alleges that Backpage.com was knowingly taking money from underage prostitutes. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spoke out against the company and their practices.
“Adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appeared repeatedly on Backpage… Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas.”
The Dallas company was founded in 2004 by Michael Lacey and James Larkin, and the two men are currently still the owners after Backpage broke from its parent company in 2012 with Ferrer as the CEO. Lacey and Larkin have been charged along with Ferrer in the criminal complaint filed in Sacramento County Superior Court on September 26. The three men are all accused of conspiracy to commit pimping and Ferrer has the added pimping a minor and pimping charges. Though the owners were not in custody as yet, warrants have been issued for their arrest.
The investigation into the company began in 2014 and NBC News reported that undercover agents used the site to arrange meetings with prostitutes and also created ads advertising escort services in their quest to end the child prostitution and sex trafficking the website was involved in. One of the interviewees was a 16-year-old who reported that she had been forced into prostitution through the site from when she was 12 or 13-years-old by her pimp.
The California Department of Justice said that the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children were the ones who initially sparked the investigation, alleging that the website was being used to exploit children and have applauded the arrest.
The center reported that since 2012, in California alone, there have been a suspected 2,900 instances of child sex trafficking through Backpage.com.
[Featured Image by Texas Office of the Attorney General/AP Images]