PHOENIX (AP) — Federal law enforcement authorities are in the process of seizing online classified site Backpage.com and its affiliated websites.
A notice that appeared Friday afternoon at Backpage.com says the websites are being seized as part of an enforcement action by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar
The notice doesn't characterize or provide any details on the nature of the enforcement action. It said authorities plan to release information about the enforcement action later Friday.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar praised the move and released the following statement: “Websites like Backpage.com facilitate sex trafficking across Minnesota and our country. The announcement by the FBI that they have seized this website and affiliated sites is long overdue, but another positive step forward in the fight against human trafficking. We must keep working to bring perpetrators to justice and get victims the support they deserve."
The Minnesota DFLer says that’s why she and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act to ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking and ensure that websites such as Backpage.com can be held liable and brought to justice.
Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek a roommate, participate in forums, list upcoming events or post job openings. It also has had listings for adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.
Last year, the creators of the website were charged with money laundering in California.
State prosecutors in California have said the website's chief executive Carl Ferrer and founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin illegally funneled money through multiple companies and created various websites to get around banks that refused to process transactions. They have pleaded not guilty.
Lacey and Larkin are former owners of the Village Voice and the Phoenix New Times, but retained ownership of Backpage.com.
A decade ago, they were arrested by then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office in 2007 for publishing information about a secret grand jury subpoena demanding information on its stories and online readers.
They won a $3.75 million settlement from county government as a result of their now-discredited arrests.