Backpage co-founders, executives indicted on prostitution charges

April 10, 2018
Backpage.com was shut down by the US authorities and two co-founders and top executives indicted for enabling prostitution and money laundering

Two co-founders of Backpage and top executives of the classified advertising website have been indicted on charges of enabling prostitution and money laundering.

Backpage was abruptly shut down by the US authorities on Friday and the indictments, by a in the southwestern state of Arizona, were unsealed on Monday.

"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 Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

"But this illegality stops right now," Sessions said. "It can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking."

Among those indicted were Michael Lacey, 69, and James Larkin, 68, who launched the site in 2004 along with another individual identified in the indictment only by the initials "C.F."

Although the pair sold their interests in Backpage in 2015, the indictment said they had since "retained significant control over the ," receiving tens of millions of dollars.

Also indicted were Backpage executive vice president Scott Spear, 67, chief financial officer John Brunst, 66, sales and marketing director Daniel Hyer, 49, operations manager Andrew Padilla, 45, and assistant operations manager Jaala Joye Vaught, 37.

The seven are residents of Arizona and Texas.

The 93-count indictment included charges of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution, conspiracy to commit and concealment of money laundering.

"This website will no longer serve as a platform for human traffickers to thrive," FBI Director Christopher Wray said. "Whether on the street or on the internet, sex trafficking will not be tolerated."

Backpage has been accused of being the biggest website for prostitution in the world, with its classifieds used to promote paid-for sex with minors and victims of .

The US Congress passed a bill last month that allows victims of to seek justice against website owners who knowingly promote or facilitate the practice.

Supporters hailed the passage of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) as a major victory.

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.

Explore further: Feds seize Backpage.com, websites in enforcement action

Related Stories

Judge allows money laundering charges against Backpage execs

August 24, 2017

California prosecutors can bring money laundering charges against the creators of a website that prosecutors label an online brothel, a judge ruled Wednesday. But he dismissed other charges months after another judge threw ...

Recommended for you

'Poker face' stripped away by new-age tech

April 14, 2018

Dolby Laboratories chief scientist Poppy Crum tells of a fast-coming time when technology will see right through people no matter how hard they try to hide their feelings.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.