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.
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.
Woman warns about pet adoption ads after paying $500 for nothing:
Florida woman loses $500 after wiring money out-of-state for a dog on craigslist that doesn’t exist.
1. Don’t ever wire money to people you don’t know.
2. Don’t buy pets on craigslist.
Not only do you have to worry about non-existent pets, but too many puppy mills advertise on craigslist.
Delavan man pleads guilty in child-trafficking case:
22-year-old Octavion L. Keith, of Delavan, Wisconisn, pleaded guilty to prostituting a minor on Backpage. However he claimed that he was babysitting the girl’s siblings so she could make money as a prostitute. Riiiiiiiight.
Just because Backpage is embroiled in a legal battle for survival with the U.S. Congress doesn’t mean it’s still not a major avenue for the online sexual slavery of women and children.
For example, 28-year-old Courtney D. Johnson was arrested in Memphis, Tennessee, for allegedly prostituting a 15-year-old runaway girl on Backpage. It wasn’t bad enough that Johnson was turning the girl out online, but when the girl said she didn’t want to work for Johnson anymore, he reportedly beat her and raped her. Johnson is also said to have instructed the girl to lie about her age. He also kept all the money the girl made.
Not to beat a dead horse, but so much for consenting adults that I’m constantly being told about. Anyone with a burner phone and a gift card can traffic someone on Backpage. Yet somehow, Backpage continues to argue that the peddling of human beings into sexual slavery is their right to free speech.
28-year-old Martin Eddie Herrera has been in a Texas prison since 2007 on multiple aggravated robbery charges. Apparently, this hasn’t stopped him from running a criminal enterprise that deals in the trading of people.
With all the Congressional hearings and possible legislation against Backpage, the child sex trade is still going on unabated on their website, even though they’ve lowered themselves to accepting gift cards as payments for ads. With any luck, the legislation will go through, the Backpage heads will be prosecuted and their seized assets will be put to better use, like providing resources for all of their sex trafficking victims.
33-year-old Christopher Wall, of Weatherford, Texas, is accused of shooting and killing Ashley Phorence, 23, and Krista McClellan, 21, in Willow Park, Texas. Wall allegedly found McClellan and another woman on Backpage and contacted them for a massage at his workplace. McClellan allegedly told Wall that the pair of women had recorded him soliciting them for sex and were extorting him for $8,000. Phorence, McClellan, and the other woman met Wall at a bank in Willow Park to get more money from him. Instead, Wall reportedly shot and killed the two women while the third waited, and eventually escaped, in the car.
If reports are to be believed, then no one is innocent in this story. However, extortion is not an excuse for murder. First off, try not to find yourself in situations to be blackmailed, like ordering women off of Backpage. That’s the wrong thing to do for a multitude of reasons I’ve discussed before. If someone does threaten extortion against you in a situation like this, go to police. Yes, you may be cited for soliciting prostitution and have to deal with the repercussions from that, but you won’t be spending a possible life sentence in jail for first-degree murder.