SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that defendant Carl Ferrer, Chief Executive Officer of online sex advertising website Backpage.com, has pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering. The defendant entered the guilty plea in Sacramento County Superior Court, resolving charges against him in the criminal case People of the State of California v. Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin. This plea follows the permanent shutdown of Backpage.com announced on April 9. The website has been described as the world's largest online brothel, facilitating human trafficking throughout the world.
Ferrer will cooperate in the prosecution of two controlling shareholders of the website, Michael Lacey and James Larkin. The case against alleged co-conspirators, Lacey and Larkin, continues in Sacramento County Superior Court.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it is happening in our own backyard,” said Attorney General Becerra. “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 combatting human trafficking in California, indeed worldwide.”
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Carl Ferrer agrees to:
- Plead guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering;
- Cooperate in the prosecution of Lacey and Larkin;
- Shut down Backpage.com throughout the world;
- Surrender operating rights to all internet domains used to operate Backpage.com;
- Make Backpage.com data available to law enforcement; and
- Face a five-year maximum sentence.
Last year, Attorney General Becerra traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before the U.S. Senate to advance legislation that would support the efforts of state attorneys general to prosecute sex traffickers. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (S. 1693) passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. Yesterday, the President signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act into law.
In regard to an ongoing prosecution, it is important to note that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra / April 12, 2018