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The now infamous website Backpage.com has been shut down by federal authorities and the federal criminal indictment filed in Arizona's district court against the site, its founders, and others has been unsealed. The allegations and details are unsettling to say the least.
Despite the founders allegedly divesting in 2015, it was alleged that they still retained "significant control." The charges include allegations of seventeen victims ranging from adults to minors. In addition to charges for knowingly facilitating prostitution, the founders are also accused of money laundering. There are a total of 93 counts, and the government alleges that Backpage.com earned over $500 million in prostitution related advertising since 2004.
Specifically, it is alleged that Backpage.com took a more active role in the advertising of prostitution by not just providing a platform, but also by suggesting edits or wording changes to ads related to prostitution. It is also alleged that one of the founders bragged about how the site was used by sex workers. In regards to the money laundering, the allegations describe the roundabout method the company took such as repeatedly converting funds from cryptocurrency and back.
The indictment also includes specific, harrowing, details relating to the victims of the sex trafficking stemming from the website. Some of the media coverage includes warnings due to the explicit nature of the details involving minors forced into prostitution.
Backpage.com Front-Page News
For the once great classified ad website, the good times of being second to Craigslist are gone. In a prepared statement, AG Sessions explained: "For far too long, Backpage.com existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised ... this illegality stops right now."