De Facto Life Sentencing Begins for Backpage Pimps

Backpage may be dead but like something out of a bad horror movie, it continues to terrorize from beyond the grave.

A man accused of running a prostitution ring out of two spas in Billings, Montana will admit one charge and see three others dropped as part of a plea deal.

Scott Donald Petrie will admit to a single count of transportation of a person with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Though this might seem as if this Backpage pimp is getting off easy in his plea deal, under the recently revamped federal laws in the wake of the Backpage debacle, this single charge alone carries up to 10 years in prison and mandatory restitution.

As we first told you in yesterday’s reporting on the aggressive new stance towards prosecuting those who used Backpage to exploit marginalized young women and girls for monetary gain, states have been showing themselves eager to vigorously prosecute sex traffickers under the new guidelines signed into law after a bipartisan coalition in the Senate began hearing the real life stories of Backpage victims. Today’s story is the latest development in this most encouraging trend.

The U.S. District Court unsealed an indictment in April saying Petrie coerced two women into providing commercial sex at King Spa and A Spa in Billings, and took half the proceeds for himself and unnamed co-conspirators.

Petrie’s activity dates back to 2014 when he placed an ad on Backpage, according to the indictment. The website, as our readers well know, has since been shuttered after it was exposed to be a front for sex traffickers.

The twin con-men at the head of the fraudulent Backpage operation, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, made over half a billion dollars off the scam which granted pimps an international platform and a level of anonymity (which Backpage propaganda hacks like Tony Ortega spent no small effort trying to convince us was merely an exercise in free speech.)

As recently as January, Petrie arranged transportation for women to come to his Billings spas, prosecutors say.

Much like the model used in Texas we wrote about yesterday, under the terms of this particular plea agreement, the building that functioned as a ‘safe house’ for Petrie’s trafficking ring, King Spa, has been forfeited to the federal government with the funds of its sale to go toward helping victims.

Prosecutors will move to dismiss three additional counts against Petrie, citing extenuating circumstance. Those are two counts of coercion and enticement, which each carry a maximum prison term of 20 years, and one count of conspiracy, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

If unsuccessful, the judgment would amount to 55 years in prison – a de facto life sentence. We hope that this aggressive prosecution trend portends well for the coming trial of Lacey and Larkin, though, if you ask us, de facto life sentences for those two is hardly enough.

sAnd what about Tony Ortega who seems to have been left out from prosecution?

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