A laundry list of high-level staffers at Backpage.com are facing money laundering and facilitating prostitution charges, with one top executive now agreeing to testify against the rest of them. Per the AP, CEO Carl Ferrer has struck a plea deal in which he'll admit guilt to state and federal conspiracy and money laundering charges, as well as help prosecutors go after his former colleagues at the classified-ad site, which itself has pleaded guilty to human trafficking and money laundering charges, per Texas AG Ken Paxton and a newly unsealed plea agreement. Ferrer, 57, will face no more than five years behind bars in Arizona. Any prison time Ferrer is hit with would run concurrently with five-year sentences already received in California and Texas as part of what the Washington Post is calling Ferrer's "three-state guilty plea tour."
"For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. Ferrer's name wasn't on an indictment unsealed Monday against seven Backpage officials, including co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin, per the Post. Lacey and Larkin are currently behind bars in Arizona and charged with facilitating prostitution; they've pleaded not guilty to those federal charges, as well as to California state money-laundering charges. In his plea deal, Ferrer said he'd "conspired with other Backpage principals" to circumvent state prostitution laws, creating a "veneer of deniability for Backpage" by editing keywords out of ads that would've raised red flags. One contingency to Ferrer's plea deal: He has to help the government shut down Backpage.com, per the Arizona Republic. (Read more Backpage.com stories.)