If you have never heard of Backpage.com or weren’t aware of what products or services the website offered, it “hosted thinly veiled ads for prostitution” and “hosted child sex trafficking ads,” according to The Washington Post. The company allegedly “even assisted advertisers in wording their copy so they didn’t overly declare that sex was for sale,” although it was. Backpage.com was active and operating since 2004, but because of the illegal operations being conducted, officials caught wind of what the website was being used for and went after CEO Carl Ferrer along with others who were affiliated with the site.
On April 5th, Ferrer pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in Arizona and conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California. The following day, the site was seized and shut down, according to Engadget. The site itself, being a separate entity from Ferrer, entered a guilty plea to charges of human trafficking in Texas, and several corporate entities tied to the website entered a guilty plea to charges of money laundering.
It appears as though Ferrer accepted a plea deal which would require him to serve up to five years in prison and in exchange, he had to hand over the URL’s of the site and its data to law enforcement. Ferrer would also have to admit that the “majority of the site’s adds were for sex services and that he conspired with others to launder proceeds from the ads after credit card companies and banks wouldn’t do business with the site.”
But wait, there’s more.
Ferrer also agreed to testify against Michael Lacey and James Larkin, both who co-founded Backpage.com with Ferrer, according to The Washington Post. Both Lacey and Larkin were indicted on April 9thand remain jailed in Arizona. Perhaps Ferrer accepted the plea deal offered because he knew the amount of evidence that was present that could, and would, be used against him. So, in exchange for giving officials everything they asked for, which mainly consisted of an abundant amount of evidence that pointed to him being guilty of all the crimes he was accused of, prosecutors in all the states agreed they would seek no more than five years in prison for Ferrer to serve.
Although Backpage.com managed to stay up and running for years, bringing in millions of dollars, after all was said and done, much of what Ferrer and his constituents made was seized and is likely going to be spent on retaining a reputable criminal defense attorney for the duration of their case.
Clearly, Ferrer already retained a criminal defense lawyer who was aggressive and willing to fight for his client to receive a slap on the wrist as his form of punishment as he was expected to serve much more time than what he was offered.