Trafficking in persons, money laundering through facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking
Assessed case number:
No. Case 2:18-cr- 00464 -DJH, United States Attorney District of Arizona
Brief description of the case
On April 9, 2018 the US Department of Justice seized Backpage.com, the Internet’s leading forum for prostitution ads and a place were sex traffickers frequently advertisers children and adults. Backpage earned hundreds of millions of dollars from facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking and served as a platform for human traffickers. In addition, seven Backpage executives were indicted for their role in a conspiracy to facilitate prostitution and were charged with 40 counts of money laundering in various forms. On April 12, 2018, the Justice Department announced that Backpage’s cofounder and CEO, Carl Ferrer, 57, of Frisco, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce and to engage in money laundering. Additionally, several Backpage-related corporate entities, including Backpage.com LLC, have entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to engage in money laundering. In his plea agreement, Ferrer admitted that he conspired with other Backpage principals to engage in various money laundering offenses. Specifically, Ferrer admitted that since 2004, Backpage has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from publishing “escort” and “adult” ads. Over time, many banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions refused to do business with Backpage due to the illegal nature of its business. In response, Ferrer admitted that he worked with his co-conspirators to find ways to fool credit card companies into believing that Backpage-associated charges were being incurred on different websites, to route Backpage-related payments and proceeds through bank account held in the name of seemingly unconnected entities, and to use cryptocurrency processing companies for similar purposes. Backpage advertisers used the proceeds of crime (money earned from pimping/prostitution) to purchase ads on Backpage; additionally, the fees which Backpage collected for posting prostitutions ads also constituted the proceeds of unlawful activity.