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Carl Ferrer, 55, was taken into custody on a California arrest warrant after arriving in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam and charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping, officials said. All of the charges are felonies. Two Backpage controlling shareholders, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, also have been charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, according to authorities.

The Texas and California attorneys general said an investigation found evidence that human traffickers forced adults and children into prostitution using escort ads they placed on Backpage. The Texas attorney general's office said it arrested Ferrer and searched the website's Dallas headquarters. Backpage was "essentially operating as an online brothel and generating millions of dollars off the illegal sex trade," the California attorney general's office said.

The website has said it regularly reports potential trafficking cases to law enforcement. Backpage com anchorage officials Backpage com anchorage not be reached for comment, nor could Lacey or Larkin.

The arrest warrant said the "vast majority" of Backpage's revenue comes from "prostitution-related ads" in its "adult services" section. Those who Backpage com anchorage for escort ads are offering sex for money "using coded language and nearly nude photos," the California attorney general said.

That state's investigation discovered that many of the prostitution ads involved sex trafficking victims, including children. Ferrer, Larkin and Lacey founded Backpage inthe arrest warrant said. The adult services section features ads for prostitution, body rubs, massages and other sexual services, the warrant said.

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Backpage has grown sincehaving created sites in cities worldwide, authorities said. Its adult section generated 99 percent Backpage com anchorage Backpage's income from January to MarchHarris said. Village Voice Media, which published several alternative weekly newspapers including The Dallas Observer, cut its controversial ties with Backpage in Backpage was a major source of revenue for the company.

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But Village Voice Media faced a lot of criticism for it as well as pressure to split from the online classified Backpage com anchorage. The arrest warrant also says Ferrer promoted Backpage by creating other prostitution-related sites that "essentially serve as an escort directory comprised entirely of Backpage users.

Ferrer is accused of using data from Backpage users to create content for affiliated sites including EvilEmpire.

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During the three-year investigation, undercover officers posted "escort" Backpage com anchorage and also arranged meetings with people who had posted ads on Backpage. The investigation, run by local, state and federal agencies, found that "commercial sex was the only purpose for both buyers and sellers," Harris said. Investigators began looking at Backpage because of information about the company from media reports, law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The number of child sex trafficking reports to the center jumped more than percent over the last five years — much of it because of online activity, California state officials said. The Senate Committee Backpage com anchorage Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted unanimously in February to pursue civil contempt charges against Backpage for refusing to disclose how it monitors its ads for signs of sex trafficking.

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