Backpage.com’s chief executive has pleaded guilty to state and federal charges stemming from a wide-ranging investigation into the sex ad website, agreeing as part of a deal with prosecutors to shut it down and cooperate in the case.
Carl Ferrer, 57, entered guilty pleas to conspiracy and money laundering charges in both Sacramento County Superior Court and U.S. District Court in Arizona under agreements with state and federal prosecutors that call for him to serve five years in prison.
“For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a written statement announcing the pleas. “But this illegality stops right now.”
Several people employed by Backpage.com were charged in a 93-count indictment unsealed on Monday that included among the accusations knowingly facilitating prostitution.
Backpage.com and its affiliated websites were seized on Friday by U.S. federal law enforcement authorities and taken off the internet.
As part of his agreements with the U.S. Department of Justice and with prosecutors from California and Texas, Ferrer has agreed to cooperate in the criminal case against Backpage co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin.
Prosecutors have accused the website of generating $500 million in prostitution-related revenue since its 2004 start, and of money laundering by routing funds through seemingly unrelated entities, using foreign accounts and converting it into and out of cryptocurrencies.
Lawmakers and law enforcement officials have long been working to crack down on the website, which was used primarily to sell sex and was the second largest classified ad service in the United States after Craigslist.
Also charged in the indictment were Backpage.com’s executive vice president Scott Spear, chief financial officer John “Jed” Brunst, sales and marketing director Dan Hyer, operations manager Andrew Padilla and assistant operations manager Joye Vaught.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb
American Islamic State ‘sniper’ charged in New York: Justice Dept
A naturalized American who was a sniper for the Islamic State group has been charged in New York with material support for a terror group after being captured in Syria and repatriated to the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Maratovich Asainov fought for the Islamic State in Syria for five years before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to US custody, the department said.
Asainov, 43, was brought back to the United States on Thursday and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.
He fought for IS in Syria from 2013 to 2018 as a sniper and a weapons trainer for other combatants.
WATCH: Employee at Tim Hortons slurs Muslim couple and tells them ‘go back to your own country’
According to a report from Deadline Detroit, a Muslim advocacy group has filed a complaint against a local Tim Horton's location after an employee insulted a Muslim couple and told them to "go back to their own country," followed by a sexist slur.
The report states Alaa Kouider and her husband, Ameur Dhaimini, were purchasing coffee at the local fast food location when they got into an argument with the cashier.
President Bolsonaro says claims of hunger in Brazil ‘a big lie’
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday there was no hunger in the country, citing the lack of "poor people in the street with a skeletal physique" as evidence.
Speaking to foreign journalists, Bolsonaro blamed "populists" for propagating "a big lie" that some of Brazil's 209 million people did not have enough to eat.
"There is no hunger," the far-right leader said, noting Brazil "was rich in practically every type of crop".
"You don't see poor people in the street with a skeletal physique like in other countries.
"To say that there is hunger in Brazil is a populist discourse to try to win popular sympathy, nothing more than that."