The CEO of a Dallas-based adult website was arrested Thursday, accused of using escort ads on Backpage.com to operate a sex trafficking and prostitution ring.
Carl Ferrer, 55, of Frisco was taken into police custody in Houston after arriving on a flight from Amsterdam. The indictment, released Thursday after a news conference by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said Backpage.com took in $50 million the last two years, according to CBS11.com.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Paxton said in a statement. “I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Backpage’s offices at the corner of Oak Lawn and Maple in Dallas were being searched Thursday afternoon, according to WFAA, and the state said it was in the process of shutting down the website.
Ferrer’s arrest comes after a joint investigation by the Texas and California attorneys generals’ offices, which reportedly turned up evidence that sex trafficking victims --both adults and children -- were forced into prostitution through Backpage’s classified ads for escorts.
Paxton said that California has been investigating Ferrer for three years and several months ago contacted his office about working together. Ferrer will face charges first in California related to pimping, and then Texas will conduct its own case.
“It’s disheartening that such organized, deep-seated evil happened in our back yard,” Paxton said Thursday in Dallas. “We cannot allow this evil to endure.”
In September, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a Senate panel’s subpeona seeking access to Backpage.com’s records, according to Politico. Ferrer and his attorneys had argued that the site was entitled to First Amendment protection, but the court ultimately rejected that position.