The Justice Department today announced the seizure of Backpage.com, the Internet’s leading forum for prostitution ads, including ads depicting the prostitution of children. Additionally, seven individuals have been charged in a 93-count federal indictment with the crimes of conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce, facilitating prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce, conspiracy to commit money laundering, concealment money laundering, international promotional money laundering, and transactional money laundering.|
The seven defendants charged in the indictment are Michael Lacey, 69, of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; James Larkin, 68, of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; Scott Spear, 67, of Scottsdale, Ariz.; John E. “Jed” Brunst, 66, of Phoenix; Daniel Hyer, 49, of Dallas; Andrew Padilla, 45, of Plano, Texas; and Jaala Joye Vaught, 37, of Addison, Texas.
“For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “But this illegality stops right now. Last Friday, the Department of Justice seized Backpage, and it can no longer be used by criminals to promote and facilitate human trafficking. I want to thank everyone who made this important seizure possible: all of our dedicated and committed professionals in the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and our U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona, the FBI, our partners with the IRS Criminal Investigation, our Postal Inspectors, and the Texas and California Attorney Generals’ offices.”
“With their help, we have put an end to the violence, abuse, and heartache that has been perpetrated using this site, and we have taken a major step toward keeping women and children across America safe,” Sessions added.
“This website will no longer serve as a platform for human traffickers to thrive, and those who were complicit in its use to exploit human beings for monetary gain will be held accountable for their heinous actions,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Whether on the street or on the Internet, sex trafficking will not be tolerated. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue to vigorously combat this activity and protect those who are victimized.”