Owners Arrested On Sex-Trafficking Charges

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California authorities say the former owners of the Village Voice in New York City have been arrested days after they were charged with sex trafficking through their control of an online site that advertises escort services.

Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, says 68-year-old Michael Lacey and 67-year-old James Larkin were booked into Sacramento County Jail on Monday.

The controlling shareholders of the site are charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. That's defined as making money from prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.

Attorneys for the Arizona men did not immediately return telephone messages, but Backpage's lawyer called the arrests "an election year stunt'' as Harris runs for the U.S. Senate.

carl ferrer
This photo released by the Texas Office of the Attorney General shows Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer. State agents have raided the Dallas headquarters of adult classified ad portal Backpage and arrested Ferrer last week. (Photo: Texas Office of the Attorney General via AP)

They are to appear in court Wednesday with Backpage chief executive Carl Ferrer, who was arrested last week following allegations that adult and child sex-trafficking victims were forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site.

Ferrer, 55, was arrested on a California warrant after arriving Thursday in Houston on a flight from Amsterdam. Handcuffed and dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, he waived extradition during a court hearing Friday morning in Houston.

"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 Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement.

A screenshot of listings.

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

"Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,'' said Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate in next month's election. "Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world's top online brothel.''

Ferrer also has been charged in Texas with a single count of money laundering, according to Texas Attorney General's Office spokeswoman Kayleigh Lovvorn. He was expected to be flown to California on Friday.

Ferrer's attorney, Philip Hilder, said Friday that his client believes the charges are "trumped up.''

"He's looking forward to his day in court, where he gets to battle back on these charges,'' he said.

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