The website Backpage is notorious across the country for its adult dating and escort section. On any given day, at almost any hour a person can find a man, woman or transgender escort willing to have sex for money. While many consenting adults take part in the sex trade, the website has been linked to underage girls and prostitution rings in various cities. This online street corner has served as a conduit for new age prostitution and the rise of online pimping. In California, the founders of Backpage are now facing charges for their role in facilitating prostitution.
Carl Ferrer, the website’s CEO, Michael Lacey and James Larkin were charged with 13 counts of pimping, conspiracy to commit pimping and 26 counts of money laundering. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is leading the charge against Backpage and says that seven of the counts involve children.
She stated to media, “By creating an online brothel — a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity — Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation. My office will not turn a blind eye to this criminal behavior simply because the defendants are exploiting and pimping victims on the Internet rather than on a street corner.”
The trio recently had similar charges against them dismissed, but new evidence was found regarding the extent of their criminal enterprise. The attorney general’s office states that Backpage illegally channeled money through several companies, and created fake websites to fool banks refusing to process their shady transactions. The prosecution also states that Backpage allegedly used photos of women from other sites without permission to boost ad revenue and knew it was profiting directly from prostitution. Ferrer, Lacey and Larkin are expected to be formally arraigned on the new charges on Jan. 11, 2017.