Carl Ferrer, the co-founder of Backpage, the notorious and now-shuttered site that once hosted a vast quantity of prostitution-related ads, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering charges.
The CEO, in a federal plea agreement unsealed in federal court in Arizona on Thursday, admitted that during the 14 years of the site’s existence, “the great majority” of Backpage’s allegedly hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue came from placing illegal ads for prostitution.
The deal was made public just three days after Backpage was seized, and seven men allegedly involved in creating and operating Backpage were indicted on prostitution and money laundering charges. Ferrer’s name did not appear in that indictment.
Ferrer agreed, in combined plea deals with both Texas and California authorities, where he faced outstanding charges, that he will shut down Backpage “throughout the world,” will aid authorities in ongoing prosecutions of his co-conspirators, and will make all Backpage data available to authorities.
Backpage the company also pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas.
In exchange for his cooperation, Ferrer will serve a maximum of five years in each case, to be served concurrently.
“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. Last Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, and it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking.”
The two plea deals, which cover both Ferrer personally and Backpage.com LLC, were unsealed just a day after President Donald Trump enacted a law that targets Backpage and its ilk. The White House wrote Wednesday that the new law “makes it a Federal crime to own, manage, or operate a website with the intent to promote or facilitate prostitution.”