Texas and California investigators found evidence that many advertisements appearing in Backpage's "escorts" section involved adult and child sex trafficking victims, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced October 6.
The Dallas headquarters of Backpage.com were searched Thursday, the same day CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested after arriving in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam.
Under California's law, felony pimping is defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.
John Clark, president and CEO of NCMEC, praised the California and Texas attorney offices for the investigation and arrest of Ferrer.
"Backpage.com seems to have knowingly and willingly allowed women and children to be exploited for its own financial gain", said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, CBSDFW reports.
Ferrer, who lives in the Dallas area, waived extradition to California during a court hearing Friday morning in Houston.
The three men will make that argument against the California charges at a hearing November 16.
Backpage was founded in 2004 by Larkin and Lacy, and Ferrer managed the site.
As of Friday morning, it was unclear if Lacey and Larkin had been taken into custody yet. The two men are former owners of the Village Voice and the Phoenix New Times.
Statement from U.S. Sen. From January 2013 to March 2015 they reportedly collected some $53 million in revenue from the sexual services section, in the state of California alone. Although Ferrer ran the day-to-day operations, he was in regular correspondence with Lacey and Larkin, who also received significant payments from Backpage, according to the government.
He will appear in court on the pimping charges.
Authorities said they interviewed more than six victims who said they paid Backpage.com to post ads promoting prostitution. Despite the arrest and the raid on the headquarters, Backpage remains up and running and the adult section containing the escort advertisements is still running as well.
Carl Ferrer is pictured in this photo from his driver's license.
"I am gratified by the news that authorities are moving to hold accountable individuals at Backpage.com for their history of putting profits before protecting victims of human trafficking".
However, the criminal complaint and affidavit, like the Washington lawsuit filed on behalf of three underage girls, contend that Backstage actively coached advertisers in how to write advertisements in ways that would stay within legal limits while still encouraging commercial sex.
Backpage doesn't require ad posters to include legitimate phone numbers and systemically scrubs photos of metadata, which the law enforcement community says makes it very hard for investigators to connect the dots between ads and traffickers.
Ford, the spokeswoman for the California attorney general, declined comment on the company's statement. Texas Attorney General's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Worldwide revenue from sex ads on Backpage.com topped $3.1 million in just one week previous year, according to a California court affidavit in Ferrer's case. During that time, the company made around $51 million in revenue just in the state of California.