How Tony Ortega Got His Salary From Child Sex Trafficking

Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey, James Larkin

Anthony “Tony” Ortega

After created the marketplace, Tony Ortega helped sex traffickers create and develop the content of their ads on the site so they could profit from each ad.

When law enforcement began to scrutinize the illegal activity occurring on Backpage, Ortega’s bosses took steps to help sex traffickers create ads that would avoid detection by law enforcement so that they could continue to profit from those ads.

One clear example of this is that Ortega and others helped develop “posting rules” and “content requirements” that sex traffickers and prostitutes were required to follow in order to post sex ads in the “escort” section of the website. Backpage asserted in public, including to law enforcement, that the “posting rules” and “content requirements” were intended to prevent sex ads from appearing on the site including in the “Escort” section.

They did this knowing full well that 99.9% of the ads in the “Escort” section were sex ads and that the ads violated the “posting rules” and “content requirements.” Nearly every ad in the “escort” section, for example, included one or more photographs of a prostitute in skimpy lingerie and sexually suggestive poses, such as spreading their legs at the camera or bending over and putting their thong clad rear ends on display, followed by a price, such as $150 per hour, a name, and a phone number.

Ortega and his Backpage cronies knew that the “posting rules” and “content requirements” served no purpose but to provide them with a way to publicly claim that they were not promoting and profiting from prostitution and sex trafficking of women and children.

Indeed Carl Ferrer, CEO of Backpage, personally helped one sex trafficker ensure that his sex trafficking ads would be posted on the website after the defendants locked his account for posting an ad for sex. The sex trafficker went by the username “Urban Pimp.” When his ads were temporarily blocked, he complained to the that his sex ads were blocked and noted that he was trying to post sex ads in 50 cities in the United States. Rather than ban “Urban Pimp” from the website, or report him to law enforcement, Mr. Ferrer advised “Urban Pimp” that he had unblocked his account. In an email to “Urban Pimp,” Mr. Ferrer wrote “Try editing your ad now. It should work. If not, email me back direct.”

In another internal email, Mr. Ferrer expressed concerned that sex traffickers would be unhappy if the company actually banned their sex trafficking ads that violated the “posting rules” and “content requirements.” Mr. Ferrer concluded that banning the sex trafficking ads would be “too harsh.” Instead, Mr. Ferrer directed the employees of the defendants that it was “[b]etter to edit by removing bad text or removing bad language” so that sex traffickers could “adjust.”

Tony Ortega knew this is exactly what his bosses wanted him to do and he gleefully complied, even defending the criminal practices described above to obfuscate his clear intent to generate revenue for the Backpage by promoting child sex trafficking. Ortega was instrumental in selling lies to the American public when he wrote:

“We’ve spent millions of dollars putting in place strict policies and monitoring services to make sure that it is only adults finding each other through’s adult pages. Not only do we have security specialists making constant searches for keywords that might indicate an underage user, but we’re quick to cooperate with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when we find suspicious ads.”

Please note that Ortega referrers to himself and Backpage as “we” which clearly indicates that he was a co-conspirator.

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