The shuffling on Backpage is being watched closely in Miami-Dade, where prosecutors have been aggressive about going after pimps and traffickers, while trying to provide rehabilitation services to girls who have been coerced into selling their bodies.
Just over half of adult victims in recent Miami-Dade cases, and 40 percent of minor victims, were advertised on Backpage. Earlier this month, on the heels of a U. Senate report that blasted the site for facilitating criminal activity, Backpage shut down the adult content portion of its website.
Classified websites such as Backpage and Craigslist, which allow users to hawk everything from real estate to used cars, have long been targeted by police for facilitating the sex trade.
Last fall, prosecutors accused a Miami preacher of trafficking young boys through Craigslist, as well as Backpage; he is awaiting trial. But Dallas-based Backpage, founded in as an off-shoot of classified sections for alternative weekly newspapers, remains one of the most popular websites for hooking up prostitutes with johns, according to law enforcement. In Miami-Dade, posts on the website have resulted in many high-profile human trafficking cases. In recent years, those charged include a local Spanish-language singer , a man who forced a runaway teen to tattoo his street name on her eyelids and a businessman who lured girls from Kazakhstan with the false promise of working at a yoga studio.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 73 percent of all its child trafficking report stem from Backpage.
In Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff Thomas Dart waged a public campaign against Backpage in , posting a letter to credit-card companies asking they stop accepting financial transactions from the site. Visa, Mastercard and American Express all voluntarily stopped accepting business from Backpage. The website sued, arguing Dart was infringing on its right to free speech — and won.
A federal appeals court upheld the ruling ordering Dart to stop publicly pressing the issue. Supreme Court in December refused to take up the issue. In December, California filed new charges against the men, this time charging them with money laundering. The trial is still pending. The best we can do is facilitate the capabilities of police to investigate. At least until recently, Backpage was generally fast to respond to government subpoenas and request for customer information, even the credit-card info used by those posting to the adult section, according to Florida police agencies.
Subpoenas revealed that someone posted the ads for the girl using a pre-paid Visa card. Digging further, investigators found that Chamah used the same card to rent a scooter — the same one he used to drop off the teen for a rendezvous with an undercover Miami Beach detective posing as a john.
Confronted with the financial records, Chamah pleaded guilty last fall and is now behind bars. When Craigslist removed its adult-services section, postings at Backpage spiked again. Senate candidate, said Tuesday that several state attorneys general sent a joint letter to Backpage and asked that it drop its adult services section. Backpage officials quickly responded and said it would not close the adult-services section.
In a blog posting, Backpage officials wrote that it would not drop the category because it had increased efforts, including working with law enforcement officials, to block ads promoting prostitution and child-trafficking.
It is our sincere hope that law enforcement and advocacy groups will find helpful partners there. John Duffield, who worked five years ago as a detective in the vice unit for the Ontario Police Department, said Craigslist was the most popular Internet site because, at the time, it was free.
We would know which ones were new, which were local. Pimps will face higher charges on other websites. Regardless of the recent developments, officials agree there will always be a way to find sex for sale, but censorship can at least slow down the process, Duffield said. List of states whose attorneys general signed a letter requesting Craigslist...