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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces New Criminal Charges Against Backpage.com Executives for Money Laundering and Pimping

Friday, December 23, 2016
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that her office has filed new criminal charges against Carl Ferrer, Chief Executive Officer of online advertising website Backpage.com, and Michael Lacey and James Larkin, controlling shareholders of Backpage. 

Following the uncovering of new evidence, charges include 26 counts of money laundering and the complaint alleges that the defendants created multiple corporate entities to launder money and circumvent the refusal of financial institutions to process Backpage transactions because of overtly sexual material. Defendants are also charged with 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping.  In seven of the pimping counts, the victims are children. Additionally, the complaint alleges that the defendants created other sites to increase the company’s prostitution-related revenue and developed content for those sites by using victim’s photographs or information without their knowledge.  

“By creating an online brothel-- a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity-- Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin preyed on vulnerable victims, including children, and profited from their exploitation,” said Attorney General Harris.  “My office will not turn a blind eye to this criminal behavior simply because the defendants are exploiting and pimping victims on the Internet rather than on a street corner."

Defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the new felony charges on January 11, 2017 in Sacramento County Superior Court.

Anyone who was a victim of trafficking via Backpage is encouraged to file a report with the California Department of Justice by emailing backpage@doj.ca.gov.

Attorney General Harris has made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice, and has advocated for increased collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies during the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.  

The Office of the Attorney General is actively investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases across California.  Most recently, the office secured felony convictions against Andrew Jordan, 37, in Long Beach, on charges of human trafficking, pimping, pandering, domestic violence, and assault. Jordan was recently sentenced to 21 years and four months state prison.  

Last year, the Office of the Attorney General released a resource guide to help companies comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. The law requires large retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose on their websites their “efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from [their] direct supply chain for tangible goods offered for sale.”

In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, which discussed the growth of human trafficking crimes statewide and the challenges with combatting them effectively. She also partnered with the Polaris Project and Yahoo! to help get human trafficking victims access to resources via sponsored search results displayed to potential victims of the crime. 

Additionally, in 2012, Attorney General Harris sponsored two anti-trafficking laws, Assembly Bill 2466, by Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), which ensures that criminal defendants involved in human trafficking will not dispose of assets that would otherwise be provided as restitution to victims; and Senate Bill 1133, by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), which expands the list of assets that a human trafficker must forfeit and provides a formula for using those resources to help victims of human trafficking. Both laws took effect on January 1, 2013.

As District Attorney of San Francisco, Attorney General Harris also sponsored Assembly Bill 22 in 2006, which made human trafficking a crime in the state and provided restitution to trafficking victims.

Please note that as with all defendants, Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, and James Larkin must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

A copy of the complaint is attached to the online version of this news release at www.oag.ca.gov/news.

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