Backpage CEO Arrested in Texas; Accused of Accepting Ad Revenue from Adult Ads Featuring Minors


Carl Ferrer, the CEO of notorious adult website Backpage.com, was arrested after he arrived in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam Thursday afternoon.

Carl Ferrer, 55, the CEO of Backpage, a website that has been accused of allowing ads for child sex trafficking, was arrested Thursday in Texas.

Ferrer was arrested in Houston after landing on a flight from Amsterdam, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced. During a joint investigation, California and Texas authorities said they found that adults and children had been forced into prostitution through escort ads on Backpage.

“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal. Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”

— California Attorney General Kamala Harris

Ferrer, who lives in San Francisco, was arrested on a warrant from California, which charged him with pimping children and other counts. Police say they executed a search warrant at the Dallas Headquarters in the Oaklawn neighborhood Thursday afternoon.

In a criminal complaint filed in California, Backpage accepted at least $2 million a month between October 2014 and May 2015 in payments from people posting adult ads in California, including payments for postings that featured minors.

Texas charged Ferrer with money laundering.

“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas.”

– Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Backpage followed Craigslist, providing Internet classifieds in categories posting ads to sell items and services, such as boats and motorcycles, computers, furniture, apartment rentals, and music instruction. The California warrant claimed that Ferrer for at least five years knew that Backpage.com is a “hub for the illegal sex trade.” Local police in Chicagoland frequently used Backpage.com to arrange sting arrests involving prostitution. In August 2016, Arlington Heights police announced 14 arrests — five on July 6 and nine on July 28 — after a sting operation that included a female officer as a decoy. The Arlington Heights sting involved placing an ad on Backpage.com and meeting the suspects at a local hotel.

Business practices and policies at Backpage, launched in 2004, have been under scrutiny at least . The Senate held the Backpage.com in contempt of Congress in March after the company refused to comply with a subpoena in a sex trafficking investigation.

The free Internet classified ads of Craiglist (launched in 1996) and Backpage, which ranks second to Craigslist, caused a significant decrease in the classified advertising business in newspapers nationwide — daily newspapers, suburban papers and community papers have been negatively affected. The classifieds included personal ads and adult sections. Craigslist removed its adult service section in 2010.

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