The CEO of Backpage.com, the Dallas-based adult classified website, was arrested Thursday for human trafficking. Carl Ferrer was picked up at Houston International Airport after a return flight from Amsterdam. Ferrer faces charges in California following a joint investigation of the California and Texas attorneys general.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said at Thursday press conference. “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.”
Paxton said Thursday that women and underage girls were forced into prostitution through escort ads placed on the website.
As Paxton held his press conference downtown, federal and state law enforcement raided Backpage.com's seventh floor headquarters in the Oak Lawn Plaza building at the corner of Oak Lawn and Maple Avenues in Oak Lawn. Police vehicles bracketed the building's parking lot and blocked both exits of its parking garage.
“It’s disheartening that such organized, deep-seated evil happened in our back yard,” Paxton said.
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Ferrer is expected to be extradited to California. He could face additional charges in Texas, Paxton said.
Disclosure: Backpage.com shares an office building with the Dallas Observer, and until four years ago, the Observer and Backpage.com were owned by the same company. In 2012, the Observer and its sister alt-weeklies were sold to the paper's current ownership, Voice Media Group, which has no affiliation with Backpage.com.