Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
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Hearings to focus on release of jailed Backpage.com founders

Hearings to focus on release of jailed Backpage.com founders

It has previously seized websites suspected of facilitating prostitution, such as RentBoy.com and MyRedBook.com, and obtained convictions of the sites' operators.

Backpage co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin are among those who face charges, which were made public after the indictment was unsealed on Monday.

Details of the charges against him have been sealed by an Arizona court, his lawyer was quoted as saying.

A hearing was scheduled Wednesday over whether Lacey should be released from jail. A similar hearing is set Thursday for Larkin.

Michael Kimerer, a lawyer for Brunst, and Stephen Weiss, an attorney for Vaught, didn't return a call for comment.

The FBI's Phoenix branch raided Lacey's home on Friday, according to local station 3TV/CBS 5. "Together with our law enforcement partners, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will continue to vigorously combat this activity and protect those who are victimized".

The U.S. government electronically shut down Backpage.com Friday, in connection with the case. Now, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped the hammer on the site, accusing it of being a global player in prostitution-related activity.


The most serious of the charges carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the official added.

The indictment Monday said it was implausible for Backpage.com to contend such ads were offering lawful escort services. "But this illegality stops right now".

Prosecutors say Lacey transferred more than $16 million to foreign bank accounts in a bid to thwart any efforts by the government to seize the money.

Backpage.com employees sought to help customers edit their ads to stay within legal limits while still encouraging commercial sex, prosecutors said. "Some of the internal emails and company documents described in the indictment are shocking in their callousness". "Eliminating adult advertising will in no way eliminate or even reduce the incidence of prostitution in this country", Lacey said, according to the indictment. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has said that 73 percent of the child trafficking reports it receives from the public stem from Backpage.

Federal prosecutors say they've identified at least 17 victims of trafficking, including a 14-year-old. H.R. 1865, known as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, targets online sex trafficking and subjects websites to federal criminal and civil liability when users misuse online personals. So the Senate subcommittee on investigations launched a probe into Backpage, and found that Backpage employees were editing prostitution ads to delete references to underage girls, while still allowing the ads to be posted.

The indictment accused defendants of trying to hide money earned from prostitution-related ads, including by transferring money through bitcoin-processing companies. Prosecutors said the site routed proceeds through unrelated entities, wire money into foreign banks and convert money into cryptocurrency.

"The masterminds behind Backpage are not only alleged to have committed egregious amounts of financial crimes such as money laundering, they did so at the expense of innocent women and children". Ferrer is not named as a defendant.

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