Backpage Founders, Employees Accused of Aiding Prostitution

Authorities say they helped customers edit ads to stay within legal limits
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 9, 2018 5:07 PM CDT

(Newser) – Two founders of Backpage.com and five others who work for the classified advertising site have been indicted on federal charges in what authorities say was a scheme to knowingly facilitate prostitution by running ads for sexual services and using foreign banks to hide revenues, the AP reports. A 93-count indictment unsealed Monday alleges that Backpage.com on some occasions helped customers edit their ads so they would stay within legal limits while still encouraging commercial sex. Federal law enforcement authorities also have seized Backpage.com and its affiliated websites. The company is accused of laundering money by wiring ad proceeds into foreign bank accounts. Website founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin are charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering.

Executive vice president Scott Spear was charged with facilitating prostitution and money laundering, while chief financial officer John Brunst was charged with money laundering. Sales and marketing director Dan Hyer, operations manager Andrew Padilla, and assistant operations manager Joye Vaught also were charged with facilitating prostitution. Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek a roommate, participate in forums, list upcoming events or post job openings. It also has had listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative. The indictment said many ads published on Backpage.com depicted children who were sex trafficking victims. While the site maintains it diligently tries to prevent prostitution ads, it still allows them and has declined to take steps to confront the problem, the indictment said.

(Read more prostitution stories.)

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