Backpage.com probably has the largest market for prostitution services in their escorts section. Not only is their escort and massage section a front for prostitution, but it’s been well known and proven that many of those escorts are human trafficking victims and underage victims. The CEO of Backpage, Carl Ferrer (55) was arrested in Houston after he arrived on a flight from Amsterdam. Law enforcement also searched Backpage’s Dallas headquarters. Ferrer is charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. Two controlling shareholders of Backpage — Michael Lacey and James Larkin — also are charged with conspiracy to commit pimping.
More details on the arrest and the long sting operation of Backpage.
The California Department of Justice spent three years investigating Backpage, including with undercover agents posting ads, to confirm that the escorts ads were for the sole purpose of buying and selling sex. California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, says that Backpage was “purposefully and unlawfully designed” as an online brothel. Her office alleges that the “vast majority” of Backpage’s profits come from fees paid by users posting ads in the “adult” section.
The investigation was prompted, in part, by reports from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of thousands of instances of child sex trafficking through Backpage.
Separately, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced this week that 17 people have been charged with running an international sex-trafficking ring that imported women from Thailand and forced them into the sex trade. The indictment alleges that the traffickers advertised the women on websites including Backpage.
Law enforcement are taking down escort agencies and massage parlors harder and bigger every time. It’s so well known that escort agencies and massage parlors are not merely for dating or massages – they are criminal operations for prostitution, human trafficking, rape, drugs, adultery, theft, money laundering, racketeering, and more. Gone are those days where the police raid an escort room or massage parlor and arrest the few workers or johns who happen to be there.
Prostitution arrests get more sophisticated, widespread, and severe. In July 2016, the Seattle police raided a massage parlor called Bamboo Spa. Instead of giving the massage parlor owner a citation and shut down the parlor, only for the owner to quickly reopen another massage parlor somewhere else like a decade ago, the Seattle police took it much farther like all police and law enforcement are handling prostitution sting operations. The Seattle police arrested the owner, 38-year-old Ling Gao, and identified and shut down the two locations she was operating. She is being charged with multiple felony charges of prostitution and human trafficking illegal Chinese women. The police also seized tens of thousands of cash and captured Western Union receipts to transfer the illegal money to China.
Like all prostitution sting operations, it keeps getting worse for the bad boys and girls involved. After the Bamboo Spa was shut down, the police set up a sting massage parlor called Euro Spa and advertised in popular john websites like Backpage.com. During the 10 day sting operation, the Seattle police arrested 204 johns. Here are some of the details during the sting operation, and the least of what will happen to you if you get caught in this.
- A guy in his 20s screamed that his life was over as he slipped the grasp of a Seattle police officer during his escort to a transport van for the ride to the King County Jail. With his hands cuffed behind his back, he didn’t run far before he was caught.
- A man who was arrested returned to the outside of the Euro Spa the next day to alert other johns of the sting operation. He stood across the street and used his cellphone to video record the goings-on at the sting location — and earned himself a second charge for obstruction.
- The men arrested come from all walks of life. Two bus drivers, six architects, dozens of technology employees, construction workers, two surgeons, a dentist, a nurse, a journalist, a couple of attorneys, an executive with a sports-management company and an aspiring law enforcement officer are among the customers who’ve been caught up in the police sting.
- At the request of some of the men, detectives have retrieved wedding rings, firearms and cellphones from their cars and kept an eye on one man’s dog during the roughly four hours he was in jail.
- The hope is that the experience of changing into orange jail garb, being photographed and fingerprinted, and undergoing the jail’s process of verifying names, addresses and phone numbers will serve as a future deterrent for men arrested during the sting.
- They will also get an arrest record and a misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute.