HOUSTON --Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage.com, was arrested Thursday afternoon in Houston after arriving on a flight from Amsterdam.
Ferrer, 55, was taken into custody after a joint investigation by the Texas and California attorneys general office. They were able to uncover evidence that adult and child sex trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads that appeared on Backpage, officials said.
"Backpage.com is probably the number one perpetrator of online sex trafficking, adult and child," Micah Bailey said. "So this is a huge win for the anti-trafficking, anti-sexual exploitation movement."
Bailey is with Elijah Rising, a non-profit in southwest Houston, that works with victims of human trafficking. Ferrer's partners are also named in the arrest warrant.
Backpage.com has a reputation among pimps and prostitutes as the place to go to find easy money.
"Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas," Texas Attorney General Paxton said in a press release. "I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
Bailey hopes the arrest is the beginning of the end.
"We believe this case will be a precedent and hopefully prevent other websites from following in the footsteps of Backpage.com," Bailey added.
The "notorious" Dallas-based website is considered the largest advertiser of adult escort services in the United States. Backpage has been the subject of recent Senate hearings into its classified ads, which often promote escort services. Last month, the Supreme Court refused to block a Senate subpoena seeking information on how Backpage screens ads for possible sex trafficking.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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