New Felony Charges Filed Against Backpage.com Operators

New Felony Charges Filed Against Backpage.com Operators
Rhett Pardon

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — New pimping and money laundering charges have been filed against the operators of Backpage.com, just two weeks after a judge tossed a similar case filed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

New charges made by Harris against Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin include 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. The execs also face 26 counts of money laundering. 

Filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, the new complaint said that Backpage officials illegally funneled money through multiple companies and created various companies — Classified Solutions Ltd., Website Technologies LLC and Postfaster LLC — to get around processors like American Express that refused to process transactions.

Harris, who is an incoming U.S. senator, announced on Friday that the new charges are based on new evidence.

Harris alleged that more than 90 percent of Backpage’s revenue comes from adult escort ads. She also alleged that the company used photos of women from Backpage on other sites without their permission to increase revenue and knowingly profited from proceeds of prostitution. 

Judge Michael Bowman sided with Backpage in the earlier case, ruling the site engaged in free speech allowed under the federal Communications Decency Act. He said that the law shielded defendants because they could not be prosecuted for content posted by third parties.

In that case, Ferrer, Backpage’s CEO, was charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. Larkin and Lacey faced conspiracy to commit pimping counts.

Industry attorney Lawrence Walters of Walters Law Group, who does not represent the defendants, said that "these new charges appear to be an attempt to plead around Section 230 immunity."

"Whether that effort will be successful or not remains to be seen,” he told XBIZ. 

Defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the new felony charges on Jan. 11 in Sacramento County Superior Court.

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