Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced the arrest of former Phoenix New Times owner Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com, for conspiracy to commit human trafficking. Ferrer, 55, was taken into custody this afternoon on a California arrest warrant after he arrived in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam.
A lengthy joint investigation by the offices of the Texas and California attorneys general uncovered evidence that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appeared repeatedly on Backpage.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Nearly three dozen members of the Texas Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Unit participated in Ferrer’s arrest and the execution of a search warrant on the Dallas headquarters of Backpage, which is considered the largest advertiser of adult escort services in the United States.
Last January, Attorney General Paxton launched his office’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime (HTTOC) unit, which works closely with prosecutors around the state to bring human traffickers to justice. Recently, HTTOC helped the Nueces County district attorney’s office secure a 40-year sentence for the trafficker of a 15-year-old victim.
“The arrest of the CEO of Backpage for inappropriate content is long overdue,” stated Kathleen Winn. “The Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network (AATN) and AZMEN applauds the actions of the Texas Attorney General’s office. Arizona has two of the major stockholders Michael Larkin and Michael Lacey who reside here and they will also be charged.”
“The “review” of the ads has been more of an exercise than an attempt to edit or control content,” continued Winn. “Backpage.com has been skirting the law by the “sale” of Backpage to an Amsterdam entity while maintaining the same legal council after the sale. Backpage.com has operated in bad faith to correct this issue. I am glad someone found the legal means to stop one of the largest advertisers in the sex for sale business. My hope is other attorneys who have other cases will be able to join this case so Backpage.com can be held accountable for their egregious actions.”