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  • Geebo 9:07 am on April 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Backpage CEO pleads guilty to human trafficking charges 

    Backpage CEO pleads guilty to human trafficking charges

    Former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    In a previous post, we 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.

    Yesterday, 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.

    When asked for his reaction on Ferrer’s arrest, Geebo CEO Greg Collier issued the following statement…

    With the recent announcement of former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer admitting that Backpage was complicit in not only promoting prostitution through their website, but also laundering money, we here at Geebo wish to earnestly thank Mr. Ferrer for doing the right thing. While we imagine it couldn’t have been easy for Mr. Ferrer to make the decision to plead guilty to human trafficking and laundering charges while facing possible jail time and a forfeiture of substantial assets, we applaud him for taking the steps necessary in order to shutter what was once called the country’s largest online avenue of human trafficking. While we have been critical of Mr. Ferrer’s practices in the past, Backpage’s closure could not have been done without him. Many mothers will now not have their daughters sold into slavery on Backpage thanks to his actions.

    In exchange for his plea, Ferrer is looking at a maximum of five years in prison and forfeiture of his corporate assets.

     
  • Geebo 9:09 am on April 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Where in the world is Carl Ferrer? 

    Where in the world is Carl Ferrer?

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    Yesterday, 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.

    Thanks to the AIM Group, we have a list of those who have been indicted. They include…

    — Michael Lacey, founder of Backpage

    — James Larkin, a cofounder

    — Scott Spear, EVP of a Backpage parent company and one-time part-owner

    — John “Jed” Brunst, CFO of a Backpage parent company and one-time part owner

    — Dan Hyer, the company’s sales and marketing director

    — Andrew Padilla, operations manager

    — Joye Vaught, assistant operations manager

    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 refered 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.

    The entire indictment can be read below.

    Backpage Indictment by trenchreynolds on Scribd

     
  • Geebo 9:04 am on April 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Feds seize Backpage: A Triumph for Freedom 

    Feds seize Backpage: A Triumph for Freedom

    I think slavery is the next thing to hell. If a person would send another into bondage, he would, it appears to me, be bad enough to send him into hell, if he could. –Harriet Tubman

    In 2010, craigslist closed its adult services section after increasing pressure from the public and lawmakers. The protestors against craigslist believed that the adult services section was nothing more than a facilitating avenue for human trafficking. While some believe, or rather try to justify, that prostitution takes place between consenting adults, more often than not, the person being prostituted is doing so against their will. By the time craigslist got rid of most of its human trafficking ads, Backpage had already been engaging in similar advertisements. The difference between craigslist and Backpage is that Backpage’s business model was heavily dependent on the sex trade. While Backpage may have had a handful of ads for used cars or other items, it made the vast majority of its money from the prostitution ads. When craigslist shuttered its adult services section, Backpage was there to pick up the pieces.

    Backpage didn’t have nearly the amount of public pressure placed on them that craigslist did because they operated mostly under the public’s radar. While most people had heard of craigslist, only those in the know were really aware of Backpage’s existence and role in the sex trade. That doesn’t mean it escaped the notice of law enforcement as many high-ranking investigative officials across the country recognized Backpage for the problem it was. One such person was Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Illinois. While he was later admonished for using official county letterhead in doing so, Dart was able to convince the major credit card companies to stop accepting payments for Backpage. Undeterred, Backpage then started accepting cash, Bitcoin, and gift cards as payment from people who wanted to place prostitution ads on their website.

    Many law enforcement agencies and human rights groups tried to put a stop to Backpage in the courts, but time and time again Backpage would claim immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. That section of the CDA states that websites aren’t responsible for content their users publish. Backpage’s constant deflection of responsibility while continuing to make millions of dollars off the sex trade eventually garnered the attention of Congress. When Congress started to get involved in Backapge’s affairs could be cited as the beginning of the end for Backpage.

    The first crack in Backpage’s facade began to show when a congressional investigative committee found evidence that seemed to implicate that Backpage would edit ads that contained keywords that could indicate the person being advertised could be a minor. Shortly after that, the Washington Post discovered that Backpage was allegedly using a Philippine company to seek out people posting prostitution ads on other sites and not only asked them to come to Backpage but tailored ads for them. This led to Congress passing two bills designed to put a stop to Backpage. The Senate passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, or SESTA, while the House passed the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, or FOSTA. The combined FOSTA/SESTA bill is expected to be signed by the President soon.

    However, Federal and State investigative agencies didn’t wait for FOSTA/SESTA as yesterday Backpage.com was seized by authorities. Anyone going to Backpage online yesterday 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.

     
    • Jennifer Smith 3:09 pm on April 7, 2018 Permalink

      I agree, we do still need FOSTA/SESTA to be signed into law, to aid in the prevention of another festering cesspool like Backpage. Oh, I am sure that the sex traffickers will continue to find a way to advertise their abusive “wares”, but we need to make it as difficult for them as we can.

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