Federal authorities have accused the two founders of the classified site Backpage.com, along with five other employees, of laundering money and facilitating prostitution. According to The Washington Post, the Department of Justice claims that Backpage took "consistent and concerted action" to knowingly allow illegal advertisements for sex work. The indictment says that "virtually every dollar that flows into the Backpage coffers represents the proceeds of illegal activity."
Law enforcement agencies seized Backpage's servers last week, and co-founder Michael Lacey was indicted in a 93-count indictment, which has now been revealed. Lacey, as well as her co-founder, James Larkin, had already been charged with violating California's money laundering laws, although a judge rejected the procuring charges at the state level.
The "adult" classified ads pages of Backpage made it a legal target for years, and critics say it facilitated sex trafficking. Site owners said they were exercising their right to freedom of expression, and sex workers argued that Backpage allowed them to work more safely by examining clients. The site finally closed the section for adults last year.
These specific charges are not related to the Sex Trafficking Stop Act, a controversial bill that would hold website operators responsible for illegal content posted on their sites. That bill is still waiting for Trump's signature, but it had an effect on other classified sites, which led Craigslist to withdraw its personal ads section.