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13 April 2018

Lawmakers and law enforcement officials have always been working to crack down on the website, which was used primarily to sell sex and was the second largest classified ad service in the United States after Craigslist.

Ferrer could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine in the federal case in Arizona, while could face a maximum fine of $500,000 for its money laundering conspiracy plea in the Arizona case.

Lacey and Larkin also earlier pleaded not guilty in California after Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Larry Brown previous year allowed the state to continue with money laundering charges.

"B$3 and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigative Division with analytical assistance form the Joint Regional Intelligence Center", the announcement said. "But this illegality stops right now".

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They are Michael Lacey, 69, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; James Larkin, 68, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; Scott Spear, 67, of Scottsdale, Arizona; John E. "Jed" Brunst, 66, of Phoenix, Arizona; Daniel Hyer, 49, of Dallas, Texas; Andrew Padilla, 45, of Plano, Texas; and Jaala Joye Vaught, 37, of Addison, Texas.

The indictment alleges "conspiracy, facilitating prostitution and money laundering", the Washington Post reported.

Also charged were Jim Larkin, co-founder of, and a long-time Lacey associate.

According to court paperwork, the company provided guidance to employees on how to moderate ads to make prostitution ads look more like escort services, adult companionship or other lawful activities.

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The website was taken down last week because the two founders and CEO were indicted on prostitution and money laundering charges.

"Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it is happening in our own backyard", California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the plea deal. "It can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking".

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. "The indictment accuses Backpage of facilitating prostitution committed by those posting ads on the site, specifically citing 17 victims trafficked on Backpage, some as young as 14". Attorneys for the company and Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer did not respond to multiple telephone and email messages from The Associated Press. In 2011, Backpage was the second largest classified ad listing service on the Internet in the United States after Craigslist.

Federal legislation was passed last month, called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), targeting operations like those at Backpage. But the bill has not yet been signed into law by President Trump.

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