Backpage.com co-founder likely to be released on Friday -- attorney

Sex website CEO pleads guilty in Sacramento to money laundering in Backpage case | The Sacramento Bee

Ferrer additionally pleaded guilty to state money laundering charges in California as well as Texas, where the company itself pleaded guilty to human trafficking, according to the attorneys general in those states. He also admitted to conspiring with others at the company to launder the proceeds from such ads after credit card companies and banks refused to do business with the site.

Ferrer could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine in the federal case in Arizona, while Backpage.com could face a maximum fine of $500,000 for its money laundering conspiracy plea in the Arizona case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. odd said in a statement that it "is appropriate that Backpage is now facing criminal charges in Arizona, where the company was founded".

Ferrer also agreed to make the company's data available to law enforcement as investigations and prosecutions continue.

Absent were Ferrer's partners, former New Times and Village Voice owners James Larkin and Michael Lacey, who with Ferrer were briefly jailed at the outset of the case on pimping charges. Lacey, Larkin and the others were arrested after the Justice Department seized Backpage.com and all its affiliated websites Friday. The executive then traveled to Texas where he again pleaded guilty to money laundering and Backpage pleaded guilty to human trafficking. It found that Backpage.com had aided the sex trafficking of women and girls by removing terms such as "lolita", "teenage", "rape", "young", "amber alert", "little girl", "teen", "fresh", "innocent", and "school girl" from ads before posting them on its site.

Ferrer then traveled to Sacramento where he pleaded guilty to money laundering once more and was released on bond. Also Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

The U.S. Senate also recently approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which would remove a legal loophole that shields websites that knowingly take part in human sex trafficking from legal liability.

In the Arizona plea, Ferrer acknowledged knowing that a great majority of Backpage.com's ads were for sex services. Attorneys for the company and Lacey, Larkin and Ferrer did not respond to multiple telephone and email messages from The Associated Press.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department, seized Backpage's servers last week after the DOJ found the site took "consistent and concerted actions" to intentionally allow ads for illegal sex work, The Washington Post reported.

Paxton's office previously arrested Ferrer in Houston in 2016 and executed a search warrant at his Dallas home.

But the measure is not without its critics - some say it would undermine a basic underpinning of the internet which enables websites to host information from third parties without liability.

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