Feds Seize, Shut Down Backpage.com, Website Used for Sex Trafficking

Saul Bowman
April 12, 2018

Former Phoenix New Times executives and Backpage.com founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin will be in court this week in connection with a 93-count indictment charging them and five others with conspiracy, money laundering and facilitating prostitution.

Crimes of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce, facilitating prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit money laundering, concealment money laundering, global promotional money laundering, and transactional money laundering.

Councilmember David Grosso, an at-large independent, said in a statement that Backpage and other sites "allowed sex workers to operate with a greater degree of safety than on the streets". Federal authorities seized the website after saying that "virtually every dollar flowing into Backpage's coffers represents the proceeds of illegal activity".

Some ads on the site included: "Get freaky Tuesday".

On Friday, a notice appeared on Backpage.com saying it had been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

One company memo simply read, "Do not acknowledge the prostitution". It was even mentioned that a client answering to a Backpage ad killed one of the trafficking victims.

A Senate investigation had claimed in 2017 that Backpage.com had "knowingly concealed evidence of criminality" by using software to identify words and phrases in submitted adverts that were associated with child abuse.


Mary Mazzio, whose documentary "I Am Jane Doe" featured numerous women trafficked on Backpage said, "I don't think any of the children who filed suit against Backpage ever thought their fight for justice would result in a federal indictment or a legislative response".

The Women's March and some other liberals aren't happy that Backpage is being shut down, calling it a "crisis" for sex-trade workers.

The law was cited in the indictment, which said Backpage receives the "overwhelming majority" of its revenue from prostitution ads. Lacey, Larkin and the others were arrested after the Justice Department seized Backpage.com and all its affiliated websites Friday.

Also past year, Sens.

Manson says while many more websites like Backpage exist, he hopes since it was shut down, it scares those creating and still operating similar online platforms.

A previous version of the law contained a far more reasonable, strategic, approach, barring sites from being operated "with the intent to promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person". It makes it easier for states to prosecute, or for victims to sue, internet companies they accuse of hosting content that facilitated sex trafficking.

Sales and marketing director Dan Hyer, 49, operations manager Andrew Padilla, 45, and assistant operations manager Joye Vaught, 37, were charged with facilitating prostitution.

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