If you’ll recall, earlier this year, the Federal Government seized Backpage.com for knowingly taking an active role in the alleged human trafficking of the girls and women posted to their adult ads section and money laundering. The company was also accused of changing the wording in ads submitted to them to make the prostitution ads seem less criminal. Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were indicted on over 90 charges after former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to prostitution and money laundering charges. Ferrer received a plea deal after agreeing to testify against Larkin and Lacey. Ferrer was supposed to be sentenced next month, but his sentencing date has now been pushed back.
Carl Ferrer was set to be sentenced on January 17th, but he seems to have received a Christmas present from federal prosecutors as the date has been pushed back to July. It’s unclear why the change of date was made, however, a US District Court judge agreed to the request. Lacey and Larkin are not set to go to trial until 2020 so the federal prosecutors are definitely not waiting until after their trials before Ferrer’s sentencing. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say this sounds more like there’s been some new development in the case. Whether or not this affects Ferrer or Lacey and Larkin remains to be seen, but it does seem like we’ll be waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
Ferrer is looking at a possible sentence of five years in prison or a $250,000 fine. Even though he’s agreed to work with the government both of those sentences seem paltry in comparison to the lives he, Lacey, and Larkin have destroyed. While a five-year stretch in prison might be a modicum of justice, Ferrer could probably raise the fine money in a matter of moments. However, some seem to think that Ferrer was set up to be the fall guy which if that is the case has severely backfired on Larkin and Lacey so far. If there will be any consolation in this process, hopefully, it will be at least Larkin and Lacey going away for decades-long sentences.
Recently, one of New York’s less than trustworthy and more opinionated newspapers ran an article claiming online sex trafficking hasn’t changed since the federal seizure of Backpage. The article claims an ‘unnamed source’ within the NYPD is saying there has been no slow down since Backpage was shuttered. This newspaper seems to be one of the outlets that believe the ‘consenting adult’ myth, as they quote a john who said prostitution should be legal since gambling and marijuana are legal in some places. The problem with that analogy is weed and casino chips aren’t being repeatedly sold against their will.
However, the article then goes on to not only mention a new website but also links to the new site as well, supposedly the sleazy heir apparent to Backpage. I’m not going to link to the article, the website, or mention the website by name, but the site looks like it’s trying to copy Backpage even right down to the CSS. The ads on this new site seem to be even more blatant than the usually coded ads that appeared on Backpage. This new site also has the usual disclaimer that ads related to human trafficking will not be tolerated, asking ad posters to click on a button that says ‘I agree’. They’re even trying to be more shifty than Backpage was. In my research, I was unable to find any information regarding who owns the new platform. Their social media presence is almost non-existent, however, I was able to find some information that the site does business in Texas, although reports say the website itself is allegedly hosted in Canada.
While the New York tabloids may be decrying online sex trafficking has continued unabated since the closure of Backpage, it’s still too early to really tell. It’s only been less than two months since Backpage was seized so it’s still too early to say it’s business as usual. At its height, Backpage was responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking in the US by most reports and had the financial backing of a media company. In today’s post-FOSTA world, it will be almost impossible for a website to be as lucrative as Backpage was at its zenith.
The online sex trafficking trade has been severely splintered. While it may continue to exist, it will never be at the level it was when Backpage was running things. This is a good thing despite protests to the contrary, as it causes fewer victims to be trafficked against their will. While the fight against online human trafficking is a constant battle, there will be fewer casualties in the future.
Previously, I’ve discussed the murder of Desiree Robinson before. She was the 16-year-old girl who was being prostituted on Backpage in the Chicago area. On Christmas Eve of 2016, when 32-year-old Antonio Rosales couldn’t pay her, he allegedly brutally murdered her instead. Her alleged pimp tried to get other women to work for him and reportedly said: “Now that she’s gone, I got no money coming in.” Now, the man who recruited Desiree for her pimp testified in court to how little Desiree’s life was worth to those who were trafficking her.
Back in April, 26-year-old Charles McFee pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of sex trafficking conspiracy for recruiting Desiree into prostitution. McFee expected to get a $250 ‘finder’s fee’ after ‘giving’ Desiree to her alleged pimp, Joseph Hazley. Hazley is still awaiting trial on human trafficking charges for prostituting Desiree on Backpage. In exchange for a lighter sentence, McFee is expected to testify against Hazley.
When people ask why we need legislation like FOSTA and SESTA, Desiree’s story should be the answer why, and her story is only one among multitudes of women and children who have been bought and sold like so much merchandise on Backpage. Not only do websites that facilitate human trafficking need to be held responsible for deaths like Desiree’s, but a message also needs to be sent to every would-be pimp and trafficker who thinks they can make some quick money by selling people into sexual slavery.
Former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer (Finally, this picture is no longer ironic)
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 leads 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 were 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.