Backpage Founders Charged With Promoting Prostitution, Money Laundering

In a 93-count indictment unsealed Monday, seven employees of the now-defunct classified ad site Backpage were charged with “knowingly facilitating prostitution” and “money laundering,” according to Reuters. Two of the seven charged were the site's founders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin. The other employees indicted were all part of the company’s senior management team, from the executive vice president to the assistant operations manager. The indictment points to 17 alleged victims who were trafficked on the site—including both adults and minors as young as 14 years old. They were allegedly sold to customers online using code words and forced to perform sex acts. One victim was gang raped, another was stabbed to death, and another was murdered in 2015 by a customer who tried to dispose of her body by burning it, the indictment charges. An attorney for Lacey claimed that the allegations were “baseless” and the federal seizure of the site was a “massive assault on the First Amendment.” Another lawyer for the accused claimed that the site hosted “third-party content,” which he is “not legally responsible for.” This comes after the site was shut down by federal law enforcement last week.