HOUSTON (UPI) — The CEO of the classified ad website Backpage.com has been arrested on charges of pimping children, among other charges in Houston, Texas.
Carl Ferrer, 55, was arrested Thursday, after returning from Amsterdam, the Texas attorney general said. The Texas-based site has been accused by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of running child sex trafficking ads.
California and Texas investigators worked in a joint operation, with the warrant issued by California, after authorities determined both children and adults have been forced into sex work via ads on the site.
Founders Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67, have also been charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. If convicted, Ferrer could face up to 22 years in prison. Larkin and Lacey could face up to six years.
Prosecutors allege virtually all of the website’s international income is from adult ads and California investigators found multiple incidents of the company receiving money from ads that featured underage escorts. The underage sex workers were found in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Santa Clara counties in California, according to the criminal complaint.
“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” Harris said. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”
Ferrer was also charged with money laundering in Texas.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.