The Latest: Backpage.com, its CEO plead guilty in Arizona
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the guilty plea by the CEO of the website Backpage.com (all times local):
The online advertising site Backpage.com and its chief executive have pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in Arizona.
The guilty pleas by the company and CEO Carl Ferrer were made on April 5, but were unsealed late Thursday afternoon.
The acknowledgements of wrongdoing came shortly after Ferrer pleaded guilty on Thursday to a state money laundering charges in California and the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas.
Ferrer says in his federal plea deal that he was aware that a great majority of the site’s ads were for sex services.
He also says he conspired with others at Backpage.com to launder the proceeds from such ads after credit card companies and banks refused to do business with the site.
A co-founder of the advertising site Backpage.com will remain jailed through the weekend in Arizona on charges of facilitating prostitution.
James Larkin underwent a hearing Thursday over whether to release him from jail. Magistrate Judge Bridget Bade says attorneys have agreed on the terms of release, but other details must be ironed out. The hearing will resume Monday.
Larkin, co-founder Michael Lacey and five Backpage.com employees were arrested in what authorities say was a scheme to publish ads for sexual services.
Four employees and the site founders pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Also Thursday, prosecutors in Texas and California said CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to money laundering. The company also pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas.
The Texas Attorney General’s office said Backpage.com has pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas.
In a statement Thursday, the office said Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer also had pleaded guilty to money laundering.
The statement did not state, however, where the pleas were entered or if they were entered in Texas. California prosecutors announced earlier Thursday that Ferrer had pleaded guilty to money laundering in that state.
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 Oct. 6, 2016. Backpage was owned by a Dutch-based company.
The chief executive of a website that authorities have dubbed an “online brothel” pleaded guilty in California to reduced charges Thursday and agreed to cooperate in prosecuting the site’s creators.
Carl Ferrer will serve no more than five years in state prison under the plea agreement.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering. He also agreed to cooperate in the ongoing California prosecution of Backpage.com founders Michael Lacey, and James Larkin. They have pleaded not guilty.
The founders also were among those indicted this month by a federal grand jury in Arizona. Ferrer was noticeably absent from the federal indictment, which referenced a “CF” who was heavily involved with the site.
Ferrer also agreed to make the company’s data available to law enforcement.