Backpage.com CEO Pleads Guilty After Sex Site Permanently Shut

(Bloomberg) -- The chief executive officer of sex-solicitation website Backpage.com pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy charges in California three days after the site, which was also used by human traffickers, was permanently closed.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that Carl Ferrer offered his guilty plea in state court in Sacramento and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against a pair of co-conspirators and controlling shareholders. Ferrer faces a prison sentence of up to five years.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it is happening in our own backyard,” Becerra said in a statement Thursday. “The shutdown of Backpage.com is a tremendous victory for the survivors and their families. And the conviction of CEO Ferrer is a game-changer in combating human trafficking in California, indeed worldwide.”

The Justice Department said this week it had seized Backpage.com and charged seven individuals in a 93-count federal indictment related to interstate commerce and facilitating prostitution.

The original dispute was filed by former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who called Backpage.com “the world’s top online brothel.” She filed 13 charges of pimping, including seven instances involving children.

The case is Harris v. Ferrer, 16FE019224, California Superior Court, County of Sacramento.

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