Carl Ferrer, CEO of the infamous adult ad website, Backpage, has pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution, as well as three counts of money laundering. The money laundering was apparently an attempt to hide the true source of Backpage’s income from banks that would otherwise have refused to handle it.
As part of his plea, Ferrer has also agreed to cooperate with the investigation and prosecution of the companies’ two founders, Michael Lacy and James Larkin.
Ferrer’s guilty plea came within a week of the FBI’s seizure and shuttering of the company, and its raids of Lacy and Larkin’s homes in Arizona. Both Lacey and Larkin, along with five Backpage employees, are now facing charges of their own for facilitating prostitution. The indictment against Lacey in particular is 93 counts long, though its exact contents are sealed.
Both founders have pled not guilty.
Backpage Appears to Have Facilitated Sex Trafficking for Years Under a Legal Loophole
While in operation, Backpage was best known for hosting ads for commercial sex, many of them allegedly involving underage girls and other sex trafficking victims. In fact, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children believes the website accounts for nearly three-quarters of the cases they cover.
Although multiple women have sued Backpage for its role in their exploitation as minors, the site was, until recently, legally protected by 47 U.S Code 230, which held social media providers harmless for the content their users post, regardless of their knowledge and encouragement of illegal content.
New legislation passed just days after the seizure of Backpage has significantly reduced this protection, meaning that Lacey and Larkin may now be open for criminal conviction and civil suits.
The Trial for Lacey and Larkin Has Been Pushed to August of 2021
Due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, the particularly high infection rate in Arizona, and the size and complexity of the necessary proceedings, Lacey and Larkin’s trial has been scheduled for August 17th, 2021.
The shutdown of Backpage and charging of its founders is a good start in addressing the problem of online sex trafficking. However, it has already been more than two years since the FBI’s raid and seizure, and a lot could still happen in the nearly year-long wait remaining before the trial, including possible further delays, depending on how the pandemic progresses.
Survivors of Sex Trafficking Don’t Have to Wait to Pursue Justice
Thankfully, sex trafficking survivors do have other avenues of justice open to them, as they await the verdict in Lacy and Larkin’s case. To get the compensation they deserve, and to help strike a blow against the sex trafficking industry, survivors can file civil suits, often anonymously, against sex trafficking websites, hotels, and other entities that have profited off of their exploitation.
If you’ve been coerced into performing commercial sexual services, reach out to The Stoddard Firm right away to learn about your options.