DALLAS (CBS11) – For the first time since his arrest, Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer appeared before a Houston judge Friday morning.
He didn’t fight extradition to California, where he faces pimping charges in an alleged human trafficking case involving the Dallas-based website.
Philip Hilder, Ferrer’s defense attorney said, “Mr. Ferrer looks forward to vigorously fighting these charges that he believes are trumped up.”
California investigators said despite their warnings, Backpage.com accepted as much as $50 million in ads for escort services during a two year period that resulted in child and adult trafficking victims forced into prostitution.
Authorities also issued arrest warrants for the website’s controlling shareholders, James Larkin and Michael Lacey.
A search warrant affidavit says in September, 2014, each man received a $10 million bonus from the company.
Yiota Souras, Senior Vice-President, General Counsel of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said the arrest will have an impact.
“It creates a deterrent effect,” said Souras.
Court documents say the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children “worked on 400 cases involving children sold for commercial sex on Backpage.com — and reported to California investigators 2,900 instances where suspected child sex trafficking occurred via Backpage.com.”
Souras said Texas children could also have been victimized.
“We definitely have secured large numbers of cyber tip-line reports relating to Texas children who are trafficked on Backpage.com,” said Souras.
When asked if she’d be surprised if the numbers were as high as California’s, Souras said, “They could be comparable.”
Bill Bernstein, Deputy Director of Mosaic Family Services of Dallas, which has helped 500 trafficking victims during the past 15 years, says the arrest will highlight the problem.
“Trafficking is operating underground more than any crime we can think of. And the reason for that is the people are trafficked generally don’t see themselves as being enslaved,” said Bernstein.
No one answered the door Friday when we stopped by Backpage.com’s office in Oak Lawn.
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