Backpage.com CEO pleads guilty to conspiracy and money laundering

The U.S. Senate also recently approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which would remove a legal loophole that shields websites that knowingly take part in human sex trafficking from legal liability.

"I have always been aware that the great majority of these advertisements are, in fact, advertisements for prostitution services (which are not protected by the First Amendment and which are illegal in 49 states and in much of Nevada)".

The indictment, unsealed Monday, charges that personal ads on the Backpage.com site allowed prostitution and sex trafficking, netting more than $500 million since the site's creation in 2004.

Court documents unsealed on Thursday show that Ferrer's plea process began earlier this month when he pleaded guilty to money laundering in a federal court in Phoenix.

Backpage.com is pleading guilty to human trafficking charges in Texas, according to a release from the Texas Attorney General's office.

Ferrer pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering.

Calling it the "largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world", Paxton said Backpage facilitated the sex trafficking of innocent women and children at 943 locations in 97 countries and 17 languages.

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The state-level pleas were demanded from the federal plea agreements Mr. Ferrer and Backpage entered on April 5 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.

Ferrer has also agreed in his California plea to take down every Backpage-affiliated website that he can within five days and forfeit all Backpage-related domains within 14 days. The FBI seized Backpage.com on April 6, leaving nothing but a notice informing users of the website's seizure by the USA government.

"It is appropriate that Backpage is now facing criminal charges in Arizona, where the company was founded, and I applaud the tremendous efforts of the agents who contributed to last Friday's enforcement action and who assisted in obtaining the indictment in this case".

Under his plea agreement, Ferrer agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue. This comes less than a week after the attorney general's office assisted the Department of Justice with permanently shutting down the website.

But Brown threw out pimping conspiracy and other state charges against Backpage's operators. "And the conviction of CEO Ferrer is a game-changer in combating human trafficking in California, indeed worldwide".

President Donald Trump this week signed a law making it easier to prosecute website operators in the future. Backpage was owned by a Dutch-based company.

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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