Arizona District Attorney Elizabeth Strange agrees to extend sentencing "in the interest of justice."
Backpage CEO's Arizona sentencing for conspiracy pushed back to July 2019
Catherine Reagor and Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic
In this Jan. 10, 2017, photo, Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer (from left), former owner James Larkin, COO Andrew Padilla, and former owner Michael Lacey, are sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, prior to testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee hearing into Backpage.com’s alleged facilitation of online sex trafficking.
The sentencing of the former CEO of Backpage.com, the classified advertising website that the federal government contends was knowingly used for prostitution purposes, has been pushed back to July 18.
The change in the sentencing date for Carl Ferrer, who originally pitched the Phoenix-based executives of the New Times tabloid chain on the idea of an online classified advertising website, came at the request of the federal government. It is unclear why.
When Ferrer pleaded guilty to prostitution and money laundering charges earlier this year, he agreed to cooperate with the federal government.
Ferrer previously had a Jan. 17 sentencing date. But a judge for the U.S. District Court in Arizona recently sided with a government request to move it back.
According to a motion filed Nov. 30 by Arizona District Attorney Elizabeth Strange, the request to extend sentencing an additional six months was done "in the interest of justice." Prosecutors declined to comment on the extension.
In the first Backpage federal indictment, co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin, the former editor and publisher, respectively, of New Times, as well as five other executives, faced 93 charges involving facilitating prostitution through the Backpage site and money laundering.
Ferrer's guilty plea was made after those seven others affiliated with Backpage were indicted on federal charges in Arizona. Lacey and Larkin have been involved in extensive pretrial litigation. Their trial has been scheduled for 2020.
The sweeping indictment of the Backpage executives detailed emails showing discussion of moderating and editing ads to disguise prostitution-related activities.
A second indictment filed in July, alleges that Backpage executives had a two-pronged strategy to corner the classified-advertising market for prostitution.
Backpage has since been shut down.
Backpage.com, a classified advertising website that faced persistent allegations of profiting from illegal prostitution, was shut down by the U.S. government Friday as authorities reportedly brought criminal charges against seven of those involved in operating the site. USA TODAY
Under the original plea deal, Ferrer of Frisco, Texas, could spend up to five years in prison or pay a maximum fine of $250,000. As part of the deal, he was required to cooperate with the government.
In his plea in Arizona, Ferrer acknowledged knowing that a majority of Backpage's revenue came from escort ads, conspiring to launder revenues from the ads, and conspiring to sanitize ads by removing photos and words that were indicative of prostitution and then publishing revised versions of the notices.