CEO Arrested For Sex-Trafficking

This photo released by the Texas Office of the Attorney General shows Carl Ferrer. State agents have raided the Dallas headquarters of adult classified ad portal Backpage and arrested Chief Executive Officer Ferrer. ... This photo released by the Texas Office of the Attorney General shows Carl Ferrer. State agents have raided the Dallas headquarters of adult classified ad portal Backpage and arrested Chief Executive Officer Ferrer. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton alleges that adult and child sex-trafficking victims had been forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site. Paxton announced that Ferrer had been arrested Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, on a California warrant after arriving in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. (Texas Office of the Attorney General via AP) MORE LESS
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DALLAS (AP) — State agents raided the Dallas offices of adult classified ad portal and arrested Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer following allegations that adult and child sex-trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site.

Ferrer, 55, was arrested on a California warrant after arriving Thursday in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. Authorities also issued warrants for the arrest of the site’s controlling shareholders, Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67.

“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that Ferrer was arrested on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond and will face an extradition hearing before he can be returned to California.

Under California’s law, felony pimping is defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.

“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” said Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate in next month’s election. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”

An attorney representing, Liz McDougall, did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages left by The Associated Press.

Lacey and Larkin are former owners of the Village Voice and the Phoenix New Times. An attorney who previously represented the two men, Michael Manning, did not immediately respond to a telephone message from The AP. advertises a wide range of services, but the California arrest warrant alleges that internal business records obtained through a search warrant show that 99 percent its revenue came from its adult services section between January 2013 and March 2015. California officials said the site collects fees from users who use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.

Worldwide revenue from sex ads topped $3.1 million in just one week last year, according to a court affidavit. It says Ferrer expanded’s share of online sex marketing by creating affiliated sites including and with related content.

Larkin and Lacey each received $10 million bonuses from the website in September 2014, according to the court filing. It was created in 2004, but since 2014 has been owned by a Netherlands-based company that has Ferrer as its only named partner.

California authorities said the state’s three-year investigation found many of the ads include victims of sex trafficking including children under the age of 18.

One of the advertisers, identified only as 15-year-old “E.S.,” ”was forced into prostitution at the age of 13 by her pimp,” according to an affidavit filed with the complaint. She used other online advertising services until they were shut down, the court filing says, when she turned to

“I mean really, coming from someone my age, there is too much access, like it’s too easy for people to get on it and post an ad,” she told California Special Agent Brian Fichtner, according to his affidavit.

California officials said their investigation was prompted in part by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which reported 2,900 instances to California authorities since 2012 when suspected child sex trafficking occurred using

The criminal complaint includes allegations that five minors, three of them including “E.S.” under age 16, paid to post advertisements on

The charges against Ferrer could bring him nearly 22 years in prison, while Larkin and Lacey face a maximum six years.

A U.S. Senate subcommittee that has investigated the company estimated its annual revenues at more than $150 million.


Thompson reported from Sacramento, California. Associated Press Writer Bob Christie contributed from Phoenix.


This story has been corrected to clarify that the portal’s name is, not Backpage.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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  1. I think a week or two ago there was a court decision affirming that Yelp is not responsible for user content (someone sued Yelp because a user gave their business a negative rating).

    I wonder if the same defense is applicable here. Particularly if they had one of those “You must be 18 yo to enter” pages some sites use.

  2. Man, I saw and thought of My Back Pages, I song I love, and it turns out to be a story about someone charged with pimping. This story just bums me out.

    Here’s a lovely version of the song to get one’s mind off of this.

  3. It’s sad that a great tradition of alternative media comes to this. The Village Voice, which had a long history of scrappy reporting and commentary, merged with and was absorbed into the New Times chain of metropolitan weeklies several years ago.

    In my South Florida area, New Times had also done some solid reporting. In the early 1990s, they broke coverage of massive corruption at the Port of Miami when the dominant daily newspaper was providing only sketchy coverage. Several years ago, the Broward County edition of New Times – greater Fort Lauderdale – did extensive coverage of ongoing corruption in the Broward County School District’s school construction division.

    Some New Times reporters went on to careers as investigative journalists on local network TV news programs.

    However, in recent years, there has been a lot of questioning about the large number of personal ads in the back pages, and many suspected these to be fronts for prostitution or sex trafficking. And while I hate to sound like an Old Left scold in bemoaning the co-opting of alternative media by ongoing criminal operations promoting decadence, apathy and mindless escapism, it seems that “sex, drugs and rock and roll” have become the profit centers and maybe the drivers of what were once hoped to serve as a true alternative to the captured corporate media. I don’t think Norman Mailer would be associated with the New Times of today.

  4. Any early Dylan song does that for me.

  5. Is Devil’s Island still being used as a penal colony?

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