Felony charges have been filed against the top executive and two controlling shareholders of the online classified ad portal Backpage.com.
USA Today reports that Carl Ferrer, the company’s CEO, and shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin face pimping charges in California.
Authorities say the operators of the website have effectively been running an “online brothel.” The site operates out of Dallas and Amsterdam.
Ferrer was reportedly arrested after arriving in Houston on a flight from the Netherlands.
“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that a three-year-long joint investigation revealed that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appear on the website,” USA Today reports. “They also alleged that Ferrer and shareholders Michael Lacey and James Larkin made millions of dollars from illegal sex trade.”
“Ferrer faces charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping, while Lacey and Larkin face conspiracy to commit pimping charges,” the report adds. Lacey and Larkin were not in custody Thursday.