Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com was arrested in Houston on Thursday. Ferrer was on his way back from Amsterdam when authorities caught up with him and placed him under arrest. He has been charged with a variety of felony pimping offenses originating from a warrant in California. Following the arrest, Backpage’s Dallas headquarters was raided and more charges may follow.
The Backpage website contains a variety of classified ads but is known for hosting a wide variety of ads for escort services. Despite the arrest and the raid on the headquarters, Backpage remains up and running and the adult section containing the escort advertisements is still running as well.
Ferrer isn’t the only person associated with Backpage with arrest warrants. NPR reports that Michael Lacey and James Larkin have also been charged with conspiracy to commit pimping in association with the website. Lacey and Larkin previously owned the Village Voice and the Phoenix New Times. They are majority shareholders of Backpage.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Attorney General Paxton said in a statement. “I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The investigation leading to the arrest of the Backpage CEO has been three years in the making. The Texas Office of the Attorney General reported that the charges were a joint effort between Texas and California investigators. An application for the warrant stated that those controlling the classifieds website were aware that Backpage was a hub for sex trafficking, both of adults and minors. The warrant also said that Ferrer, Lacey, and Larkin were knowingly profiting from the prostitution services being offered on their website.
Other classified websites have been accused of allowing sex trafficking in the past. Most notably, Craigslist was the subject of several probes into their adult section. They have since disabled that offering under the “services” heading of the website. Their personals section still exists but for-profit postings are prohibited.
The arrest of Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer is the latest attempt to shut down the growing business of human trafficking in the United States. Officials involved in the investigation believe that prohibiting these types of posts to classified websites such as this one will significantly cut down on the illegal sex trade and in turn, help to protect more minors who have been forced to work as escorts in the growing trafficking schemes.
[Top photo: Texas Office of the Attorney General]