(AP) State agents raided the Dallas offices of adult classified ad portal Backpage.com and arrested Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer following allegations that adult and child sex-trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site.
Ferrer, 55, was arrested on a California warrant after arriving Thursday in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. Authorities also issued warrants for the arrest of the site’s controlling shareholders, Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67.
“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, a Republican, said in a statement.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that Ferrer was arrested on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond and will face an extradition hearing before he can be returned to California.
Under California’s law, felony pimping is defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.
“Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” said Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate in next month’s election.
“Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel.”
Backpage.com advertises a wide range of services, but the California arrest warrant alleges that internal business records obtained through a search warrant show that 99 percent its revenue came from its adult services section between January 2013 and March 2015.
California officials said the site collects fees from users who use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.