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The Latest: Backpage attorney blasts raid, CEO's arrest

This photo released by the Texas Office of the Attorney General shows Carl Ferrer. State agents have raided the Dallas headquarters of adult classified ad portal Backpage and arrested Chief Executive Officer Ferrer. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton alleges that adult and child sex-trafficking victims had been forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site. Paxton announced that Ferrer had been arrested Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, on a California warrant after arriving in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. (Texas Office of the Attorney General via AP)
October 07, 2016 - 5:16 PM

DALLAS - The Latest on the arrest of the CEO of adult classified ad portal Backpage.com and the raid of his Dallas offices (all times local):

7:15 p.m.

The attorney for Backpage.com is blasting the raid on the online classified ad portal's Dallas headquarters and the arrest of chief executive Carl Ferrer as "an election year stunt" on the part of the California attorney general and "not a good-faith action by law enforcement."

In a statement issued Friday, Backpage general counsel Liz McDougall said "the actions of the California and Texas attorneys general are flatly illegal" and "ignore the holdings of numerous federal courts that the First Amendment protects the ads on Backpage.com."

She also said the actions violate a federal law that she says pre-empts state actions such as these and immunizes web hosts of third-party-created content.

McDougall says Backpage will, in her words, "take all steps necessary to end this frivolous prosecution and will pursue its full remedies under federal law against the state actors who chose to ignore the law, as it has done successfully in other cases."

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2:45 p.m.

Cindy McCain says the arrest of Backpage.com's chief executive is a "huge game-changer" in efforts to crack down on the sex trafficking of young girls and boys.

The wife of Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain has been leading efforts for several years to fight human trafficking. She has repeatedly called out Backpage.com for allowing the advertising of minors for sex.

She said Friday that she's grateful to California and Texas authorities who charged Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer. He's facing pimping charges in California and a money laundering charge in Texas.

Ferrer was arrested in Thursday in Texas. He waived extradition to California during a court hearing Friday.

Cindy McCain co-chairs the Arizona Human Trafficking Council and works nationally and internationally on efforts to stop sex trafficking.

She says Backpage.com had the chance to "do the right thing early on" but chose not to.

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12:50 p.m.

Texas authorities say Backpage.com receives more than 90 per cent of its revenue from the adult escort ad portion of its classified advertising business.

A warrant used to search the company's Dallas headquarters says those ads amounted to about $50 million between January 2013 and May 2015 just in California, where the company is also being investigated.

A search warrant affidavit says law enforcement officers told the company's chief executive, Carl Ferrer, about prostitution ads on the site.

The affidavit also says Ferrer "is regularly copied on the hundreds of law enforcement subpoenas and requests that Backpage.com receives each year related to prostitution and sex trafficking of both adults and minors on the website."

Ferrer, who lives in the Dallas area, was arrested Thursday. A spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General's Office says he's also charged with a single count of money laundering in Texas.

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11:50 a.m.

The chief executive of the adult classified ad portal Backpage.com has waived extradition from Texas to California after being arrested on several pimping charges.

CEO Carl Ferrer appeared in a Houston courtroom Friday in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. Ferrer was arrested Thursday on a California warrant after arriving in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam.

Ferrer waived extradition during the hearing. The local prosecutor says Ferrer is expected to be flown to California on Friday afternoon.

Ferrer's attorney, Philip Hilder, says his client believes the charges are "trumped up." Hilder says Ferrer is "looking forward to his day in court, where he gets to battle back on these charges."

Investigators allege that adult and child sex-trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on Ferrer's site.

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10:20 a.m.

A Texas search warrant affidavit accuses the chief executive of Backpage.com of engaging in money laundering while operating the adult classified ad portal.

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.

Ferrer was arrested on a California warrant. He is expected to appear in court in Houston on Friday for an extradition hearing.

California authorities say Ferrer was arrested on several pimping charges, including one involving minors. Under California law, pimping is defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.

Backpage.com is a Dutch-owned limited liability corporation incorporated in Delaware. But its principal place of business in Dallas.

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6 a.m.

State agents have raided the Dallas offices of adult classified ad portal Backpage.com and arrested Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer following allegations that adult and child sex-trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site.

Fifty-five-year-old Ferrer was arrested on a California warrant after arriving Thursday in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. Authorities also issued warrants for the arrest of the site's controlling shareholders, sixty-eight-year-old Michael Lacey and sixty-seven-year-old James Larkin.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Ferrer was arrested on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. Under California law, pimping is defined as making money off prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.

Attorneys for the three company officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the charges.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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