The previous owners of sex work website Backpage were convicted of a prostitution scheme


Three former owners of Backpage, a site primarily known as a place where sex workers advertise their services, have been convicted of federal crimes including promoting prostitution and money laundering, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

The recently convicted trio, Michael Lacey, 75, Scott Speer, 72, and John “Jed” Brunst, 71, became owners of Backpage in 2010. Since then, the government says, they have encouraged sex work advertising by creating a system to… “Jones.” “, or customers, to leave reviews about sex workers they have dealt with. The website’s workers and automated system filtered out words that made it clear that sex was being offered for money.

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“Through this attempt to purge the ads, the conspirators sought ‘plausible deniability’ of what the conspirators knew were ads promoting prostitution,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Backpage, which Lacey and partner James Larkin founded in 2004 as a response to Craigslist, has been at loggerheads with the U.S. government and law enforcement for more than a decade for facilitating sex work and over allegations that Backpage gave child sex traffickers access to children. A safe space to spread victims. These allegations and government actions to weaken Backpage have been denounced First Amendment and sex work advocates Both.

In 2018, Larkin and Lacey were arrested on charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering and had their assets confiscated. In the same year The site has been closed By the US government, Carl Ferrer, Backpage’s co-founder and then-CEO, and Dan Hyer, Backpage’s director of sales and marketing, pleaded guilty to the same charges.

In 2021, an Arizona judge declared a mistrial in the Larkin and Lacey case after finding that the plaintiffs’ arguments hinged on the horrors of child sex trafficking even though none of the defendants had faced related charges. The new trial was scheduled to begin in early August of this year, but a few days ago Larkin died by suicide.

Lacey, Speer and Brunst each face 20 years on each count of money laundering.

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