Carl Ferrer, chief executive of Backpage.com, which was seized by the federal government one week ago, pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges in California and Texas, and officials unsealed plea agreements made last week in an Arizona federal court.
Ferrer, 57, pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering in California, and to money laundering in Texas, the states’ attorneys general announced. Additionally, the company pleaded guilty to human trafficking in Texas.
The New York Times reports that “The state-level pleas were required by the federal plea agreements Mr. Ferrer and Backpage entered on April 5 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. In news releases on Thursday, political hack Attorneys General Xavier Becerra of California and Ken Paxton of Texas described them as major victories in combating human trafficking.”
Under his federal plea deal, Ferrer pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering, acknowledging that he had “long been aware that the great majority” of the advertisements on Backpage for “adult” and “escort” services were actually advertisements for prostitution.
According to The Washington Post,
Ferrer also acknowledged creating a “moderation” process to remove terms and pictures indicative of prostitution. “Such editing did not,” Ferrer wrote, “of course, change the essential nature of the illegal service being offered in the ad — it was merely intended to create a veneer of deniability for Backpage.” He said that these “editing practices were only one component of an overall, companywide culture and policy of concealing and refusing to officially acknowledge the true nature of the services being offered in Backpage’s ‘escort’ and ‘adult’ ads.”
In addition, Carl Ferrer admitted that he and other Backpage executives had used “shell bank accounts and cryptocurrency processing companies” to conceal the source of their revenue.