Backpage: Beyond Borders, Beyond Trafficking

Simon Ho-On

We’ve been looking a lot lately at the vast number of cases working their way through the courts in virtually every state in the nation. It’s worthwhile remembering, however, that the damage done by Backpage — the child sex trafficking website Tony Ortega stood on many a soapbox to defend — spread across the globe.

Today we learned of a shocking story out of Canada. Its details, while particularly gruesome and inarguably evil, should be published here and elsewhere if for no other reason than to shine a light on the true depravity of the site Tony Ortega stridently insisted was merely exercising its right to ‘freedom of speech’ by hosting scores of advertisements selling minors for sexual use.   

While Backpage made its money off trafficking children and vulnerable women, the list of crimes associated with its infamous sex-ring go far beyond that single charge. As evidenced by a man in Canada who was arrested earlier this year and charged with 21 human-trafficking related offenses. After authorities investigated further, they discovered an additional 17 charges.

Police say they began investigating a report of human trafficking in January after a man allegedly used a noxious substance to render a 22-year-old woman unconscious and then “control her.”

Police say he tattooed the woman’s body with his nickname “Sosa” to mark that she was his “property” and forced her to work in the sex trade.

The accused, along with another man teamed up and advertised  her in the sex trade on Backpage.com. They both used deception, intimidation and fear to control her actions.

In addition, investigators say the woman was given drugs in order to keep her awake and to be “at the ready” to work as well as to maintain power and control of her actions and decision making.

The woman was also assaulted and seriously injured as well as threatened with a firearm by both men. They also took all the money she earned from her forced work in the sex trade.

Simon Ho-On, 23, of Toronto, Canada was arrested in February of this year and initially charged with 21 human-trafficking related offenses.

Thereafter, police issued a news release and since then, additional victims and witnesses have come forward.

Now the accused Backpage pimp faces 17 new charges:

  • Two counts of Assault
  • Three counts of Sexual Assault
  • Voyeurism
  • Procuring
  • Exercise Control
  • Trafficking in persons by recruiting, transporting, and harboring
  • Financial and Material benefit resulting from trafficking in persons
  • Advertise anther persons services
  • Threaten bodily harm/death
  • Assault with a weapon
  • Possession of dangerous weapon
  • Administer Noxious Substance
  • Forcible Confinement
  • Sexual Assault with a Weapon

 It cannot be overstated just how willfully and intentionally deceptive Tony Ortega’s defense of Backpage’s ‘First Amendment Rights’ was and is. It was a lie from the beginning designed to give some measure of cover for what was really going on. The victims along the way were a price Tony Ortega was apparently willing to pay.

Police in Canada and across the United States are concerned there may be more victims and encourage all affected individuals to come forward and report occurrences of Backpage’s human trafficking.

Anyone with more information is asked to contact police immediately.

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