Anders Hagstrom, DCNF
The founding executives of private advertisement website Backpage.com were charged with 93 counts of facilitating prostitution and fraud Monday, just days after federal authorities shut down the website.
Founding executives Michael Lacey and James Larking and five others were charged, according the indictment. Their charges relate to federal allegations that Backpage.com promoted illegal sex trafficking alongside consensual paid encounters. Many sex workers are complaining that the website’s absence only makes their job more dangerous by forcing them onto the streets. The occupation is illegal in every state aside from Nevada.
“For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike,” Attorney General Sessions said in a statement. “But this illegality stops right now. Last Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, and it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking.”
Backpage allegedly accrued more than $500 million in revenue through prostitution-related advertisements since its inception. In the months before its take-down, Backpage removed its adult advertisement section in an attempt to ward off federal investigators.
“This website will no longer serve as a platform for human traffickers to thrive, and those who were complicit in its use to exploit human beings for monetary gain will be held accountable for their heinous actions,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Whether on the street or on the Internet, sex trafficking will not be tolerated. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue to vigorously combat this activity and protect those who are victimized.”
The U.S. Senate released a report on the website in January, alleging that Backpage executives “knowingly concealed evidence of criminality by systematically editing its adult ads,” and also that executives were aware the website was being used for illegal activity, such as child sex trade.
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