Backpage.com co-founder pleads guilty -US Justice Department

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The online advertising site Backpage.com and its chief executive have pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in Arizona.

Additionally, several Backpage-related corporate entities, including Backpage.com LLC, have entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

Last week, Backpage began displaying a message saying the federal government had seized the website.

"Scott says the shutdown of these sites could impact police investigations". "There is no one in the entire world who made more money off sex trafficking than the owners of this website", she said. The bill would also enable state and local authorities to prosecute websites that break federal sex trafficking laws.

"For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike", U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a written statement. 'But this illegality stops right now'.

"It is my honest hope that my client's tenacity and today's news of Backpage.com's acknowledgment of its guilt in facilitating human trafficking will encourage other survivors of human trafficking to come forward, tell their stories, and hold wrongdoers accountable", he said. Backpage.com removed the adult section from all of its websites last January after the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations released a report that accused the website of knowingly facilitating child sex trafficking.

The company founders were among Backpage officials indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona.

The federal plea deal says any prison sentence Ferrer would face would run concurrent with his 5-year terms in Texas and California.

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In his admission statement, Ferrer admitted that he conspired with other Backpage officials to facilitate prostitution crimes being committed by users of the site.

Attorneys general in Texas and California also announced Thursday that Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to money laundering.

State agents raided the Dallas headquarters of Backpage and arrested Ferrer on a California warrant after he arrived at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on a flight from Amsterdam on October 6, 2016.

The plea agreement provides that, if Ferrer fails to comply with either of these requirements, the plea agreement shall be null and void and the United States may bring additional charges against Ferrer. Ferrer was not charged in the indictment.

The seven defendants charged in the 93-count indictment were all arrested on Friday, April 6.

Ferrer has also agreed in his California plea to take down every Backpage-affiliated website that he can within five days and forfeit all Backpage-related domains within 14 days.

On April 9, Larkin, Spear, and Brunst had their initial court appearances before Judge Bade.

James Larkin underwent a hearing Thursday over whether to release him from jail.

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