Crime - Sacto 911

Prosecutors, Backpage.com attorneys spar over state subpoena for records and data

Attorneys representing executives from Backpage.com want a Sacramento judge to block a subpoena issued by state prosecutors who seek records and data from a website they allege committed money laundering and bank fraud while operating as a portal for the global online sex trade.

Both sides argued the relevancy of the requested documents Tuesday before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lawrence Brown, who shelved a decision until Nov. 1. Brown said he wanted “an opportunity to more carefully view” materials provided by Backpage attorneys and to “consider further argument by the (prosecution).”

Brown on Aug. 27 ruled to allow charges of money laundering and bank fraud against Backpage executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin. Brown, however, threw out pimping charges that had been pressed by state attorney general’s prosecutors.

Prosecutors allege Backpage executives used a network of shell corporations to disguise from banks vast sums in illicit advertising revenue obtained from pimps, prostitutes and their customers, then funneled money back into Backpage through affiliate websites.

Ferrer, Lacey and Larkin entered not guilty pleas on Aug. 23.

Prosecutors on Tuesday told Brown the subpoena seeks financial information – including how ads are sold and financial transactions are programmed on Backpage – relating to the flow of money through the portal.

But defense counsel James Grant said the subpoena calls for an “extraordinarily broad” clutch of materials including Backpage.com transaction and communication history, ads, database files and customer information, “none of which has anything to do with the remaining claims in this case,” he said.

Separately, in Seattle on Tuesday, three women who alleged they were sold for sex on Backpage.com as teenagers announced they had settled their lawsuit against the website. The case had been scheduled for trial next week. Cases against Backpage.com remain in other states, including Texas.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments