Seven executives of the popular classified advertising website Backpage.com, including its co-founders, have been charged in a 93-count federal indictment, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice.
On Friday, the site was seized by federal authorities, per a notice posted on the website, but the exact reasons were unknown at the time.
The DOJ said the site has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking.
The cofounders of Backpage.com, along with five other executives of the online classified advertising site, were charged with 93 counts of federal crimes on Monday for practices that the Department of Justice alleged “enabled Backpage to earn over $500 million in prostitution-related revenue since its inception.”
The indictment released on Monday alleges that the executives used “a variety of strategies” to make prostitution ads look like ads for legal services like adult companionship and escort services.
The controversial classified advertising website was seized by federal authorities on Friday “as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation” and other federal agencies, per a notice posted on backpage.com.
On Monday, the DOJ indicted Backpage cofounders Michael Lacey and James Larking, as well as the company’s head of finance, the head of sales and marketing and several other executives for charges including facilitating prostitution and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The DOJ announcement states that the charges are “merely accusations” at this point. The indictment also says that the defendants “have admitted — in internal company documents and during private meetings — that they know the overwhelming majority of the website’s ads involve prostitution.”
“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,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the announcement. “But this illegality stops right now.
Liz McDougall, an attorney that a Washington Post report referred to as Backpage’s General Counsel, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Here’s the full text of the DOJ press release:
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced the seizure of Backpage.com, the Internet’s leading forum for prostitution ads, including ads depicting the prostitution of children. Additionally, seven individuals have been charged in a 93-count federal indictment with the crimes of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce, facilitating prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit money laundering, concealment money laundering, international promotional money laundering, and transactional money laundering.
The seven defendants charged in the indictment are Michael Lacey, 69, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; James Larkin, 68, of Paradise Valley, Arizona; Scott Spear, 67, of Scottsdale, Arizona; John E. “Jed” Brunst, 66, of Phoenix, Arizona; Daniel Hyer, 49, of Dallas, Texas; Andrew Padilla, 45, of Plano, Texas and Jaala Joye Vaught, 37, of Addison, Texas.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange …read more
Source:: Business Insider