Just because craigslist removed its personals section doesn’t mean it’s any safer. Last weekend, two men, 21-year-olds Alize Smith and Jarron Moreland, went missing in Moore, Oklahoma, after witnesses saw them being taken into a van. Moreland’s family claimed that he was meeting someone to sell something through craigslist. Sadly, the bodies of Moreland and Smith were found weighted in a pond earlier this week. Three suspects have been arrested and charged in their murders, and they are 22-year-old Kevin Garcia-Boettler, 43-year-old Johnny Barker, and the 16-year-old brother of Garcia-Boettler.
According to police, Moreland and Smith were said to be selling a gun on craigslist and the trio of suspects were meeting with the two men to purchase the gun. Once Moreland and Smith approached the suspects’ van, one of the suspects claims they heard a gun being cocked by one of the victims. This resulted in one of the suspects firing on the two men, killing them both. Tragically, this could have all been prevented.
Craigslist’s terms of service forbids firearms from being sold or traded on their site, yet it happens all the time. The problem with craigslist is the usual one as they hardly ever do any kind of moderation on their site for any kind of illegal items or sales. Instead, they rely on their users to flag any kind of inappropriate ad, the same users who are posting the illegal ads to begin with. This is akin to the inmates running the asylum. Craigslist has the ability to screen for ads like this as they have done so in the past with unlocked iPhones when that was still illegal. Yet they allow guns to change hands without even batting an eye.
In a previous post, I wondered what Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer’s role was in the Federal seizure of Backpage since his name did not appear on the 93-count indictment against other Backpage heads and employees. Now we know as it has been announced that prior to the seizure of Backpage, Ferrer pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate prostitution.
Last week, not March for once, Federal authorities announced that they took Ferrer to three separate states to plead guilty against the various charges against him in Texas, Arizona and California. Ferrer has also agreed to testify against Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. In his pleas Ferrer admitted that Backpage was well aware that the ads on its site were used to facilitate prostitution.
“I have long been aware,” Ferrer wrote, “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).”
Ferrer also admitted that Backpage was used to launder money after the credit card companies stopped accepting payments for Backpage.
“I worked with my co-conspirators to find ways to fool credit card companies into believing that Backpage-associated charges were being incurred on different websites,” as well as route Backpage money through seemingly unrelated entities, and to use companies which processed crypto-currencies.”
This virtually nullifies any kind of ‘free speech’ argument Backpage could possibly present in court.
In exchange for his plea, Ferrer is looking at a maximum of five years in prison and forfeiture of his corporate assets. While I wholeheartedly believe Ferrer should spend way more time in prison than five years, if it gets Lacey and Larkin to spend a considerable amount of time in prison then I’m all for it.
In my previous post, I discussed how craigslist shuttered its personal section in anticipation of the FOSTA law. Many in tech circles have lamented the loss of craigslist personals as if it was some place where wholesome couples would meet so they could attend church and ice cream socials together. What they’re conveniently forgetting is that the personals section of craigslist had a much more sinister undercurrent that not much of the public was aware of.
Sadly, this is not just a one-off occurrence as the Craigslist personals have a long history of this type of activity. This wasn’t even the youngest victim to ever be sold through craigslist as an Idaho man tried selling a 3-year-old girl through craigslist. In either case, none of the ads were flagged by craigslist’s community policing. For those of you who try to say that this will drive the predators underground, that’s the whole point. Without such a platform like craigslist, predators will have one less highly trafficked platform to find their victims and reprehensible parents won’t have the marketplace to sell their kids.
Back in March, which is going to be a recurring theme for a while, before FOSTA was signed into law, and before Backpage was taken down, craigslist took it upon themselves to remove the personal ads section from their website including the casual encounters section. Anyone clicking on any of the personal ad links on craigslist are met with the above message. As is usually the case with craigslist, they’re playing the victim over something they should have done years ago.
To hear craigslist tell it, they sound like FOSTA is about to kill all romance on the internet. What craigslist isn’t telling you is that their personal ads, like most sections of their site, have long been the home of criminal activity. When craigslist shut down its erotic services section after public pressure, whatever human trafficking ads didn’t move to Backpage moved to craigslist’s personals section. That’s not even taking into account that craigslist’s casual encounters section was often used by child predators looking for their next victim. So while craigslist is acting like some kind of martyr, let it never be forgotten that their personals section has mostly been a cesspool of crime.
Craigslist has only itself to blame since they failed to monitor their own site for decades.
Monday, the 93-count indictment against seven Backpage employees was finally made public. As previously noted, Backpage co-founder Michael Lacey was already known to have been named in the indictment. What we know now is the remaining six people being indicted for various charges related to the Federal seizure of Backpage. One of the expected names to be listed on the indictment was the other co-founder of Backpage, Jim Larkin, and his name is listed second on the indictment. However, there is one name that’s missing from the list of the seven Backpage employees who you would think would be at or near the top of the list.
In case you’re still wondering whose name is not appearing on the list it would be that of Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer. However, while not currently under indictment, Ferrer is referenced to several times in the indictment by the initials “C.F.” and not always referred to in the best light. For example, C.F. is said to have rejected an implementation that would admonish Backpage users if they used search terms that would indicate they were looking for a child prostitute. This is the same Carl Ferrer who decided to just ignore a Congressional subpoena in 2015.
This obviously leads to the question, is Carl Ferrer the reason the seizure took place in the first place? The feds could have had a big enough carrot to dangle in front of Ferrer as he was still facing money laundering charges in the state of California. If that’s the case Ferrer should be applauded somewhat for allowing the internet’s largest avenue for human trafficking facilitation to be taken down, but let’s keep in mind that in the past, Ferrer has never had the best of intentions. One also has to wonder if Ferrer may have been granted immunity from prosecution if he turned on his seven cohorts. Although, I would imagine this wouldn’t make him immune to any civil litigation which probably would hurt Ferrer more than any prison sentence.
I’ve been behind in posting stories about the legal battles befalling Backpage, such as the passage of the SESTA/FOSTA bill that would amend section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The legislation is worded so websites that knowingly facilitate human trafficking would be held legally responsible. However, even before SESTA/FOSTA could be signed into law by the President, the Backpage website was seized by State and Federal authorities this past Friday.
Anyone going to Backpage online on Friday was greeted with the Department of Justice’s declaration that Backpage had been seized as part of an enforcement action by not only the FBI, but also the US Postal Inspector’s Office and the IRS. It’s the IRS’s involvement that lead me to believe this is finally the last we’ve seen of Backpage. According to Wired Magazine, there has been a 93 count indictment against seven people involved with Backpage where one of the charges is money laundering. I would even hazard a guess that maybe Backpage and its cabal of founders may not have been exactly forthcoming on their taxes. Let’s not forget that this is almost the exact same way the Feds were able to finally take down Al Capone. One of those people charged in the indictment was Backpage co-founder Mike Lacey. I would imagine that indictments for Backapge CEO Carl Ferrer and co-founder Jim Larkin can’t be far behind.
Surprisingly, this is not the first instance of the Feds seizing a website that was involved in the facilitation of human trafficking. Back in 2014, the FBI seized MyRedBook which was a similar site to Backpage but on a much smaller scale. In that case the site owners were also accused of money laundering among child prostitution charges. That site’s owner was convicted and was forced to relinquish over a million dollars in cash and assets and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Since Backpage operated on a much grander scale, I would imagine any potential fines and sentences would dwarf those of MyRedBook.
Since FOSTA/SESTA has yet to be signed into law, its detractors will say that we no longer need the legislation since Backpage was shut down without it. To those I say FOSTA/SESTA is still needed to prevent another website to rise from Backpage’s ashes like Backpage rose from craigslist’s. No woman or child ever deserves to be turned out online like so much property to be sold into sexual slavery over and over again on a constant basis.
And for those who claim to be ‘legitimate’ sex workers who say Backpage made it safer for them to ply their trade, I have a couple of things to say. The first is, any supposed safety that you perceive to have given to you by Backpage is nothing more than a talking point and an illusion. For all your safety, there was a plethora of women who were either raped or killed by men who had their victims delivered to them through Backpage like they were some kind of murder pizza. The second thing is, if you supposedly have the freedom to choose what you’re doing and are not being coerced by any kind of pimp or trafficker like so many have claimed, maybe this is your sign to pursue more legitimate ventures in your life. You know, ones where you don’t have to worry about pimps, violent johns, and other potentiality tragic hazards of the job.
What shouldn’t be forgotten about this story is the letter Sparre wrote to his ex-girlfriend after his conviction where he stated he enjoyed killing Tiara, admitted planning the murder for weeks and thought he was smarter than police. Egomania and psychopathy aside, does that sound like someone with a diminished mental capacity to you?
Meanwhile, Tiara’s family, who by all accounts are loving and close-knit, can’t appeal the death sentence David Sparre inflicted unfairly on Tiara just because she answered his craigslist ad.
UPDATE 2/18/2018: Early last week two suspects were arrested and charged with Gerard Cage’s murder. They are 28-year-old Timothy Gordon Johnson and 29-year-old Nichelle Angeleane Scott-Dennis, both of Lancaster.
Over the weekend, 18-year-old Gerard Cage was shot and killed in Lancaster, Texas, after trying to buy a cell phone through the marketplace app 5miles. Gerard was said to have been shot by a man in a white Dodge pickup. At last report Gerard’s killer was still at large. The meeting place was said to be very public, but as we’ve seen in the past few years, that doesn’t stop people from robbing or killing their victims through apps like this.
The investigation is ongoing and Lancaster police are asking anyone with information to call Lancaster police at 972-218-2711.
Tragically, this isn’t the first murder committed through 5miles in the Dallas area. Back in late 2016, 33-year-old April Vancleave of Arlington, Texas, was shot and killed after trying to sell jewelry through 5miles. She was followed home by two men who intended on robbing her.
The difference between these murders and murders that have taken place through other apps is that 5miles has not only offered their condolences but publicly stated that they’d be helping local police.
“5miles” app told WFAA on Sunday night they are working to assist Lancaster PD in solving Cage’s killing.
“We’re saddened to hear about this young man and have been cooperating with the Lancaster P.D., providing the detective assigned to this case with requested information and support,” the company said in a statement.
When has craigslist ever reached out to the public positively when one of the 100+ victims have been killed through their platform?
5miles also offers a safety feature that many similar apps do not. The app has an option that recommends a safe meeting place which includes police stations. The only other platform I know of that offers a similar service is, friend of the site, Geebo.com who provides a link to SafeTrade Stations in every ad.
My prayers and condolences go out to Gerard’s friends and family. Hopefully his killer will be brought to justice swiftly.
If the suspect’s story is to be believed, this may be the most bizarre craigslist killing I’ve heard of in the past 12 years.
Back in late December, 19-year-old Natalie Bollinger of Adams County, Colorado, went missing. The day after she was reported missing her body was found. Nicole had been shot in the head and a lethal amount of heroin had been found in her system.
Originally, the public turned their suspicious eye toward a scary looking man who Natalie claimed was stalking her. She even took out a restraining order on the man. Since he has not been charged in Natalie’s death, I won’t post his name. However, I get the feeling that some people will still point to him as a suspect. He was a person of interest until another person was arrested for Natalie’s murder.
22-year-old Joseph Michael Lopez was arrested this past week and was charged with first-degree murder in Natalie’s death. Lopez claims that Natalie took an ad out on craigslist entitled “I want to put a hit on myself.” Lopez claims he responded to the ad posing as a hitman. The two exchanged over 100 text messages. Lopez claimed that he didn’t shoot Natalie but was with her the night she died. However, police say when Lopez was confronted with the GPS data from his phone he allegedly admitted shooting her in the back of the head.
Do I believe Lopez’s grandiose tale of the craigslist ad? Surprisingly, I think there may be a grain of truth to his story. It’s not unheard of for people to look for a hitman on craigslist. Usually, those people are also arrested. Some of Natalie’s friends have said she had suicidal thoughts and a drug problem so it is a possibility that for whatever reason she didn’t want to end her life by her own hand. I’m not 100% convinced this is why he killed her, but it’s not the strangest reason why someone kills.
Having said that, that does not excuse Lopez’s actions in any way shape or form, nor does that make Natalie Bollinger any less of a victim. Just because someone asks you to kill them DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD. Lopez reminds me of one of those guys who thinks he’s an actual ninja because he collects swords and watches anime. If his story is true, then due to his obvious disregard for Natalie’s life, I would have no objection if Lopez was given the death penalty. That seems unlikely since Colorado has only executed one person since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974.
I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this one and as usual, I’ll post updates as they become available and as time allows.
It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Richard Beasely was sentenced to death. Not surprisingly, he hasn’t been executed yet. If Ohio doesn’t impose a moratorium on the death penalty, I give him about another 15 years before his date with the needle.
In case you may not remember Richard Beasley, he concocted a plot where men would be lured to Ohio for a phony farm job Beasley posted on craigslist. Three me were shot and killed by Beasley after responding to the ad. Those men were Ralph Geiger, David Pauley, and Timothy Kern. A fourth man, Scott Davis, was able to escape from Beasley’s attack.
Beasley also employed a teenage henchman by the name of Brogan Rafferty who helped Beasley dispose of their victims’ bodies. The pair would split any ill-gotten gain they were able to claim from their victims. Rafferty was tried as an adult and sentenced to life without parole.
Beasley was attempting to steal the men’s identities, probably because he was already facing criminal charges for drug and human trafficking.
This past week, the Ohio State Supreme Court upheld Beasley’s death sentence. Beasley’s defense argued there were errors in the trial which should cause a new trial. However, not only did the Ohio Supreme Court vote unanimously that Beasley’s conviction should stand, but the court also voted 6-1 that the Beasley’s death sentence should remain. The only thing more perfect than that in Ohio was the Cleveland Browns 0-16 season last year.
But again, as is the problem with most death penalty cases, Beasley will probably never get the justice he truly deserves. While Beasley can file appeal after appeal, Ralph Geiger, David Pauley, and Timothy Kern can’t appeal their death sentences and they didn’t even commit any crime.