On his way back from Amsterdam, Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested on a California warrant in Texas upon landing at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport. For months, the CEO has been hiding out in the Netherlands, attempting to escape the allegations of child sex trafficking cases that have become synonymous with his name in the United States.
After years of Backpage acting as what is arguably the largest online brothel in the world, trafficking victims began to come forward about being bought and sold through the site. Ferrer was arrested on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. Before he can return to his home state of California, he is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond and will face an extradition hearing.
Backpage.com operates much like Craigslist. On the site, you can buy everything from a car to clothing and jewelry. But according to Ferrer’s California arrest warrant, internal business records show that 99 percent of Backpage’s revenue came from its adult services section between January 2013 and March 2015.
According to that same warrant, the site operates in hundreds of cities nationwide, including more than 30 in California alone. Backpage brought in a whopping $2.5 million per month – just from the State of California – equaling more than $51 million during the 29 months covered by the internal revenue reports. That dollar amount doesn’t even include the cities in all other 49 states.
Now, this is not necessarily “new” news. Ferrer has been part of a three-year investigation that found many of the ads on the site included the purchase of children under the age of 18. The site itself has been the subject of recent Senate hearings because of its classified ads. Much to Ferrer’s dismay, the Supreme Court refused to block a Senate subpoena seeking information on how Backpage screens its ads for possible sex trafficking victims just last month.
While this information sounds exciting, it won’t come without changes to how we reach out to trafficking victims. This kind of news makes us ask what might be next for the site. How will law enforcement track these online ads? Will taking down the site, which has been discussed by the federal officials handling this nation-wide sting, ultimately push prostitution underground? Will getting rid of Backpage put these girls at risk of even more danger?
While this situation raises these valid questions, we hope you’ll join us in prayer for the many men and women involved in each Backpage ad. As for the future of Backpage, it’s hard to tell how our job might change in the coming months. Pray that we would be as effective as possible at reaching out to women right where they are.
To learn more about Carl Ferrer and the scandal engulfing Backpage.com, please visit http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/backpage-com-ceo-carl-ferrer-arrested-pimping-charges-n661426