Backpage.com and its affiliated websites were seized on Friday by USA federal law enforcement authorities and taken off the internet.
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce and to engage in money laundering, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Many of those ads depicted children, according to the indictment, although the defendants are not facing any charges that they knowingly advertised children for sex.
Online classifieds site Backpage.com made $500 million from displaying prostitution advertisements, prosecutors said Monday.
"Taking down Backpage and obtaining a criminal conviction for the company and its CEO represents a significant victory in the fight against human trafficking in Texas and around the world", Paxton said in a written statement.
Lacey and Larkin are former owners of the Village Voice and the Phoenix New Times. "But this illegality stops right now". Each count carries as much as 20 years in prison. A single-image notice, indicating a seizure by the FBI and other federal agencies, is all that remains of the site.
Face a five-year maximum sentence.
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The Texas and California attorneys general worked together to find evidence that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution, Breitbart Texas reported.
The indictment said the site contended it tried to prevent prostitution ads, but investigators determined that was not the case.
Federal authorities have shut down websites in the past amid allegations of sex trafficking. A year later, Rentboy.com, where NY male escorts advertised their services was also seized with six of its employees indicted on similar charges.
The plea agreement provides that, if Ferrer fails to comply with either of these requirements, the plea agreement shall be null and void and the United States may bring additional charges against Ferrer.
"B$3 ackpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigative Division with analytical assistance form the Joint Regional Intelligence Center", the announcement said.
The Justice Department appears to be emboldened by the anti-sex-trafficking legislation passed by last month by the House and the Senate. "This bipartisan measure will make it easier to hold online sex traffickers accountable, and I look forward to seeing President Trump sign this bill into law next week".
Backpage - accused of being the biggest website for prostitution in the world, with its classifieds used to promote paid-for sex with minors and victims of human trafficking - was abruptly shut down by U.S. authorities on April 6.