On Wednesday, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown overruled defense dismissal motions in the Backpage.com case, allowing the criminal prosecution by the California Attorney General’s Office against defendants Carl Ferrer, James Larkin and Michael Lacey to proceed on 25 felony counts. The defendants are charged with money laundering and conspiracy utilizing Backpage.com as a multi-million dollar online sex trafficking hub.
“It’s a vile story: vulnerable teenagers are exploited online and lured into becoming victims of sex trafficking,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s victory doesn’t exact justice just yet against those who would prey on vulnerable young women and men. But it brings us a step closer. Local, state and federal law enforcement authorities are working together to combat sex trafficking across California and the United States. We will vigorously prosecute this case.”
“This ruling should send notice to those who believe that facilitating a crime is not the same as committing it,” said Kathleen Winn, Executive Director of AZMEN|Project 25, an anti-human trafficking organization. “Backpage.com and it’s method of exploitation must be shut down and those that seek to fill the gap thwarted in their efforts. I am hopeful that continued exploitation of children should be met with harsh punishment.”
Last month, in another case involving sex trafficking, Attorney General Becerra filed 54 felony charges against Quinton Brown, Gerald Turner and Mia McNeil. The criminal complaint is the product of a six-month investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and the California Department of Justice. The complaint alleges that Brown lured victims, several of them underage, from the Central Valley and trafficked them throughout the state. The case is pending in Tulare County Superior Court.